Germany vs. Switzerland: Comparing cost of living, jobs and more

Germany vs. Switzerland: Comparing cost of living, jobs and more

by Laura Jones

Updated October 6, 2023

Together, Germany and Switzerland make up two-thirds of the so-called DACH countries — Germany (D), Austria (A) and Switzerland (CH). As such, the two countries have many things in common, including a shared language, an excellent quality of life and relatively strong economies. However, they also differ in significant ways, from cost of living to salaries. 

Wondering whether it’s better to live in Germany or Switzerland? Here’s how the two countries compare.

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Quality of life in Germany vs. Switzerland

The quality of life in Germany and Switzerland is excellent. Both countries tend to score well on the OECD’s Better Life Index

With that said, Switzerland has the edge over Germany in several areas, including safety, health, income and life satisfaction. In Germany, for example, 76% of people feel safe walking alone at night, compared to 86% of their Swiss counterparts. In terms of health, life expectancy in Switzerland is 84 years; in Germany, it’s slightly lower at 81. 

Switzerland’s major cities also regularly make it onto lists of the most liveable cities in the world. Zurich and Geneva were in the top ten on the EIU’s Global Liveability Index 2023. However, the number one spot went to Vienna, giving Austria bragging rights over its German-speaking neighbors. 

Cost of living in Germany vs. Switzerland

While neither Germany nor Switzerland is a cheap place to live, the cost of living in Switzerland is significantly higher. 

For the sake of comparison, let’s take Berlin and Zurich, the largest cities in Germany and Switzerland, respectively. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in Berlin’s city center costs an average of €1,266. The same apartment costs more than double that in Zurich (€2,600). A movie ticket in Berlin costs an average of €12.50, while it’s over €20 in Zurich. And if you want to use Switzerland’s famously efficient public transportation? A monthly ticket in Zurich costs €89 compared to Berlin’s €49 Deutschland-Ticket.  

On average, consumer prices are 85% higher in Switzerland than in Germany. However, comparing Switzerland and Germany in terms of salary turns this figure on its head. According to the Better Life Index, the yearly salary averages $53,754 in Germany and $64,824 in Switzerland. The Swiss have more disposable income and greater purchasing power than the Germans on average. In other words, those who work in Switzerland can generally afford the higher prices. 

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Jobs in Germany and Switzerland

Speaking of work, which booming economy will you choose: Germany’s or Switzerland’s? 

Both countries offer a wealth (no pun intended) of positions for German and non-German speakers alike. Switzerland is home to many international organizations as well as a buzzing financial sector. Germany is a technological powerhouse and has strong automotive and mechanical engineering industries. 

Both countries have high rates of employment (77% in Germany and 80% in Switzerland) — evidence of a healthy labor market and good prospects for job seekers.

Swiss and German culture

Due to their close proximity, it should come as no surprise that Germany and Switzerland share many cultural aspects. Both countries have large German-speaking populations, though Swiss German differs significantly from the High German spoken in Germany.

Other linguistic differences exist, too. Switzerland has four national languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh) compared to Germany’s one official language (German). English is widely spoken in both nations. However, Germany ranks 11th in the world on English First’s English Proficiency Index 2022, while Switzerland ranks 25th. 

The food overall is pretty similar, though local dishes can be quite different. In Switzerland, cheese-based dishes like fondue and raclette are popular. German food, on the other hand, tends to go heavy on meat and potatoes (think Schnitzel with fries). 

Major religious holidays like Christmas and Easter are widely celebrated in both countries. Citizens also celebrate national festivals, like Switzerland’s National Day and German Unity Day.  

People in both countries tend to lead active and outdoorsy lifestyles, enjoying diverse landscapes ranging from the forests of Germany to the mountains of Switzerland. The countries aren’t a uniform picture of health, though. Germany and Switzerland have relatively high rates of smoking among adults — 26% and 25%, respectively, compared to just 13% in the United Kingdom. 

Germany or Switzerland?

Choosing whether to live in Germany or Switzerland boils down to personal preference. Both countries offer a high standard of living and share certain cultural features. Germany and Switzerland also have strong economies and offer expats a range of job opportunities. And while Switzerland is more expensive, the salaries there certainly make up for it. If you’re just visiting, why not go to both and see which you prefer? Just make sure you have a big budget if you’re visiting Switzerland! 

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Laura Jones

Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

Laura Jones
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