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Comparies National Economies

Published by marco on

I just read/scanned through the article Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture. The article is quite accurate and well-written in the material that it addresses. The reaction at Reddit was more uninformed than usual. My notes below.

  • Taxes: Federal and even cantonal (state) taxes are lower in Switzerland. As she mentioned, this is partially due to there being no “capital-gains loophole” (dividends are taxed at a high rate) but also because there are fewer loopholes for corporations. When corporations pay their fair share of taxes instead of sloughing off profits, taxes for everyone else go down.
  • Cars: Her point about owning a car is a good one. I want to add that there’s no pressure for a young people to own cards just get places, which keeps them out of debt longer. Naturally, some get cars (and debt) anyway, but it’s not the norm. Of course, that means that they all ride the trains with you…

    Cost of Living: The commentaters at Reddit noted that the average salary of 90k per year in Switzerland is eaten up by the cost of living. Well, of course it is. Switzerland doesn’t offer more bang for your tax dollar, more maternity leave, better unemployment insurance and retraining, low-cost or nearly free higher education, better commuting, better work/life balance, more vacation and 2-3 times as much disposable income, you greedy, ungrateful fuck.

    That said, you only eat through 90k per year (especially by yourself!) if you eat all of your meals at restaurants and are constantly on the go in clubs, bars, etc.—especially if you live in a big, expensive city (e.g. Zürich or Geneva). At Encodo, we eat in the office three times per week, dining out for lunch only twice per week. We (almost) never eat at our desks, though, preferring a communal eating area inside or on an outdoor terrace, weather permitting.

    People here generally eat at restaurants a lot less. It’s a cooking culture. The salary covers even a lifestyle that isn’t trying to save, but you can save a lot if you adjust your lifestyle a bit. People bitching about having used up every cent of their salaries would do so no matter how much they were paid.

  • McDonalds: There were also complaints of how expensive McDonalds is in Switzerland. Everything is locally sourced, including the non-hormone, non-antibiotic, grass-fed beef, the cheese (McRaclette!) and even the potatoes. It still looks the same, but presumably kills you less quickly. Hell, they even bring your food to your table. You have to compare apples to apples. There are cheaper alternatives here, if you’re looking for low-price takeaway meals. For example, the umpteen Döner stands or the many options in Co-op or Migros.
  • Water Just as an example: if you buy bottled water, then you can buy it on the train (CHF5.60) or a Kiosk (CHF3.90) or Migros (CHF0.90) or just take tap water—best in the world—from home (CHF0.00). You pay for convenience, but if you plan even just a little bit, you can save a lot of money.
  • Rest of Europe: Some commentators said that it’s even better in other European countries. That is true, on some levels. Swiss health insurance is the third-highest in the world (behind the UK and the stratospheric US). There is no public option, though we’ve gotten to vote on it a couple of times. CEO salaries are still higher than they should be[1] but we also voted on limiting that recently and only narrowly lost. Switzerland lags in a few areas behind countries like Austria and Germany, but excels in others. The main advantage (in my mind) is that Switzerland is not part of the EU and might be less affected by what are sure to be further shockwaves in that conglomerate.
  • Salaries: It was a bit sad to see how many comments at Reddit focused laser-like on the absolute amount of take-home cash. Work/life benefits and a better life don’t enter into this very simple equation. When a populace can focus only on one thing, then everything else will be taken away.


[1] Not at Encodo, of course; there the ratio is more like 1:1