Let's say I have a salary of 150,000$ in the US, in the San Francisco Bay area. I would like to have a better idea of my take-home pay if I move to Zurich or Geneva, compared to the US.

If you are an expat in Zurich or Geneva, would you like to comment on this comparison and to share the details on your mandatory expenses on your Swiss salary?

  • 1
    You can find take-home pay simulators like this one online but mandatory expenses is hardly the most important thing to take into account and looking at raw take-home pay does not make for a like-for-like comparison (think about health insurance for example). Also specific to Switzerland is the fact that there are large differences between cantons (I think Zurich and Geneva have some of the highest income tax rates in the country).
    – Gala
    May 14, 2016 at 10:11
  • I think it may be helpful to clarify to people who are familiar with Switzerland but not SF what your standard of living is like in San Francisco Bay area: what kind of place do you live in, how is your commute, do you often eat out, do you live in an exciting town or a suburb...
    – qoba
    Apr 29, 2018 at 9:07
  • This question is opinion based and only getting opinions as answers. While this information could be useful, it could just as well not be because of the differences in opinion which have been stated as 'answers'.
    – ouflak
    Jul 29, 2020 at 8:37

5 Answers 5


I don't know how much are living costs in US, but I suppose, by the same salary, it's better to stay there. Switzerland is very expensive. The taxes (by such income) will consume about 1/3 of your salary. A single appartment may cost as much as 2000 CHF/month. Food is very expensive, a regular meal outside will cost from 20CHF, fast food like McDonald or Kebab about 10CHF. You can get away cheaper cooking by yourself, but it still will be about thrice as much as in Germany, for example.

Gasoline costs about 1,5 CHF/liter. Simply having a car is expensive, in many cities like Zurich there are no free parking places, you can either rent one if it's available or park on private parkplaces, both options expensive.

But for that money, you have the priviledge to live in a very beautiful and secure country.

  • I'd add that it is perfectly possible and in cities like Zurich also more convenient to not have a car.
    – drat
    Mar 23, 2017 at 9:53
  • 2
    Tax is about 1/3 in California also, but living costs in the SF Bay Area are insane. I'm guessing OP probably either has roommates, a tiny apartment, no savings, and/or a bad commute with this kind of salary.
    – qoba
    Apr 29, 2018 at 9:05
  • For example studios in San Francisco rent for usd $2500/month on average (meaning, that doesn't even get you a very nice apartment)
    – qoba
    Apr 29, 2018 at 9:10

The life in Switzerland is expensive, especially the real estate.

In Geneva, where there is a housing shortage, a studio of about 30 m2 is about 1000 CHF/month.

In Geneva, the cheapest health insurance (with accident coverage) is 469.80 CHF/month (with insurance deductible 300 CHF) but most health companies are above 500 CHF. By increasing the insurance deductible to 2500 CHF, the insurance is "only" 341.50 CHF, but you have to pay the first 2500 CHF of health cares if you have to go to the doctor. Beyond the franchise deductible, you have to pay 10% of your health expenses as well. And this is without supplementary insurance for private clinics a.s.o. The dental cares, nor the glasses are covered by the standard health insurance, which is mandatory.

The cost of the health insurance is increasing about 5% year over year, and even over 10% if you had a "cheap" insurance company.

The good thing for you is that the cost of the health insurance is flat, independent from your income.

One hour with a general practitioner is about 200 CHF, and with a specialist about 350 - 400 CHF.

Lawyers are about 500 CHF/hour.

In Geneva, it is difficult to find parking places in streets. A covered parking place is about 200 CHF to above 400 CHF a month.


The taxes and cost of living are similarly high in both places. All in all, if you can have the same salary in Switzerland, the different would really end up being more about lifestyle than about money.

Switzerland has vastly better public transportation and car ownership is more expensive.

San Francisco is close to the surf, Switzerland is close to the snow.

In both places, housing is expensive in the sense that people spend a large share of their income on it; construction is likely to be sturdier in Switzerland (concrete not wood frame).

Switzerland makes you pay for landfill garbage disposal by the bag and it's expensive, in California it's rolled into property tax and it's cheap.

Child rearing is expensive in both places.

The US has a strong pro immigrant policy, for example if your child is born in California they'll automatically be American regardless of your nationality or your spouse's. In Switzerland they won't get Swiss citizenship and you and they'll pretty much be considered alien in that land forever.

California is a huge state, part of a country thousands of miles across. In Switzerland, wherever you are you're less than 150 miles from a border with a foreign country.

These, not take home pay, would be the real differences.


Personal experience

California :

Gross - Pay 13683.40
Federal - 2090.51
Fica - 848.37
Medicare - 198.41
State - 858.76
SDI - 136.83
Net Pay - 9550.52

Zurich , Switzerland

Gross Pay - 13683.40
Tax withholding - 1540.00  ( federal + cantonal)
Social deductions - 835.35 ( AHV/UI ) 
Net Pay - 11308.05
  • But your cost of living is so much higher in Switzerland than in CA, I have lived in Basel as well as LA and San Diego and for sure with similar standard of living and food etc you would get more left over in the US than in Switzerland, but if you adjust and are smart I would choose Switzerland any day of the week cause normally salary is higher then in the US as well in my experience at least Dec 29, 2019 at 9:14

With the same salary, you will always be better off in Switzerland. At the end, there are two key factors 1.) taxes and other mandatory deductions and 2.) housing. At the end, who cares about the garbage collection tax, this doesn't move the needle.

Housing in Switzerland is much cheaper vs net incomes. Why? It is regulated. Taxes are far lower in Switzerland, specially in the right cantons.

We can discuss if chicken is more expensive in Switzerland, or petrol or cars. Same salary, you save far more in Switzerland.