Leaving St.Gallen

I’m sorry to say that after many years in this beautiful little town I am moving on. It has been a pleasure to be able to provide this blog and I hope that people to continue to benefit from it for years to come :-). I won’t delete any content, but I’m afraid that eventually most of the information will become out of date.

But who knows. One day I might move back and I will for sure start to blog again. And thanks to everyone who followed the blog and all of the e-mails of support I received.

And if you ever decide to move to Frankfurt next, why not take a look at my new blog: www.frankfurtexpat.wordpress.com

As if I would actually stop blogging entirely 🙂

Enjoy St.Gallen!!

Taxable income levels in St.Gallen

I just found an interesting bit of information for you on income levels in St.Gallen. This information is published by the city tax office according to taxable income for individuals in St.Gallen city. Just to confirm though, when you look at these numbers, please don’t think that the majority of people are poor :-). Actual incomes are normally higher. Have a look at your annual tax summary to figure out how you are doing comparatively.

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For reference, there are around 78,000 inhabitants in St.Gallen (29% of whom are foreigners).

English-speaking tax advisor

At some point during your time in Switzerland you are going to have to fill out tax return forms. When you do it will depend on your permit status, salary level, nationality and length of your stay. Even if you speak good German, this can be confusing and it can be hard to know if you are really filling out the forms right and if you are taking advantage of all of the relevant rebates.

The best thing you can do is get a tax advisor. For filling out the tax returns forms for easy cases, this will cost only about CHF 200 each year. It will probably save you a lot more than that on your tax bill, and will save you a lot of stress.

I only know of one fluent English speaking service in St.Gallen but I am sure there must be others. However the following provide an excellent service: http://www.scriptoconsult.ch

Cost of car ownership

Thanks to a comment on a previous blog post I am reusing my answer here to give a little information on whether or not you should buy a car when coming to St.Gallen.

Firstly the costs.  For the numbers below, I have not factored in the actual investment in a buying a vehicle. You can bring one across the border, but the tax implications often make that impractical. It is worth checking this depending on the value of the car you are importing.

Insurance – CHF 1200
Service costs – CHF 500-1000
Bluezone (city) parking – CHF 1400
Private parking at home – CHF 1000
Road/highway taxes – CHF 400

This assumes an average family car which is in good condition.

Considerations:
1) Are you cost sensitive? 
If you are then you will probably stay away from having a car. I  ran the numbers a couple of different ways but each time it comes out a lot more expensive.
2) Convenience. Having a car is convenient, especially when you want to go shopping in Austria or if you want to go to the mountains. But for parking in cities or intercity transport, you will find that having a car is fairly annoying.
3) Public transport. If you live on a frequent bus route then you will find that a car is not needed regularly. But if you find that you are relying on buses 9, 10 or 11 (or just a postbus) you will find that buses are not frequent enough or just stop in the evenings and Sundays.
4) Mobility. Mobility is a car share company across Switzerland. There are 20 different locations around St.Gallen where cars are located and around 50 vehicles available. If you decide to go without a car, then signup for a year membership with Mobility. The cost is low, particularly for journeys less than 24hrs, and it is very quick and easy to pick up a car.

Detailed living costs

Here’s a useful (hopefully) table that I used for estimating expenses for St.Gallen.  This is just about the minimum required to live comfortably within the city limits.

  1 working adult Young family of 4 Student
Accommodation CHF 800 CHF 1300 CHF 650
Food, clothes, general shopping CHF 500 CHF 1200 CHF 300
Phones, TV CHF 200 CHF 200 CHF 50
Facilities (electricity, etc.) CHF 200 CHF 300 CHF 100
Insurance (health and house) CHF 300 CHF 900 CHF 100
Travel (no car) CHF 300 CHF 500 CHF 70
Leisure (optional 🙂 ) CHF 500 CHF 500 CHF 200
Misc. CHF 1000 CHF 1000 CHF 500
Total CHF 3,800 CHF 5900 CHF 1,970

 

If you are coming as a student there are a number of ways to cut a lot of costs. If not though you should plan to earn about CHF 500-1000 above this (if possible) to avoid problems with non-planned costs, particularly health related.

10 things I wish I’d known before moving to St.Gallen :-)

1) Just because French is an official language that they all learn at school, doesn’t mean the locals are happy to hear it! If you can’t speak German, try English next 🙂

2) The Swiss are different from the Germans and Austrians. And that is the only thing they want to hear you say. Never group the three into a single statement!

3) Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because Switzerland is a rich country, that all accommodation is 1st world standard. Take no basic service for granted!

4) Swiss don’t seem to cook at home. So prepare for a small, inconvenient kitchen even in the largest of flats.

5) “Switzerland has high quality education” does not equal “all Swiss schools are good”.

6) Most Swiss people use public transport, not because it is so good (which it is), but because owning a car is so bloody expensive and inconvenient!

7) Figure out how to shop over the border in Austria. For everything. Its all a lot cheaper.

8) Don’t expect to ever be invited round to a Swiss person’s house.  Be happy when it happens, but prepare for it never happening.

9) Working from 9-6 is unSwiss. 8am is already late in the office.

10) Plan your life around the shops opening times. You’ll save much stress…

Salaries in St.Gallen

Now that you know how much it will cost to survive in St.Gallen (roughly!), you probably need to know how much you need to earn and how much you can ask for.

Salary negotiations in Switzerland are notoriously difficult for foreigners particularly those moving from overseas.  Swiss job adverts rarely show salary and potential employees are often expected to state their salary requirement either before or during the interview.  This can be advantageous if you know what the going rate is and how much to push it.  But more likely, you will either ask for too much and have to climb down (or miss out entirely) or ask for too little and miss out on a few thousand that would have made your life a lot easier.

CHF 50-60,000 – Lowest level entry salary for junior admin position
CHF 60-70,000 – Semi-skilled technical or office position with at least a couple of years experience, probably with BA degree
CHF 70-90,000 – Office administrator, possibly managing 1-2 juniors, several years experience, possibly specific technical skills required
CHF 90-120,000 – at least 5 years relevant experience, team lead/office head position
CHF 120,000+ – at least 8 years relevant experience, mid- to senior management, probably holding Masters or equivalent, or with 10+ years relevant technical/specialist skills

This is a rough guide that will vary between industry and company, so don’t hold me to it….

Cost of living in St.Gallen

If you are considering moving to St.Gallen, this is probably one of the two most important things you are going to search for.  The second is salary levels in St.Gallen and they go hand in hand when you have to decide whether the famously high salaries of Switzerland will afford the infamously high living costs.

Trouble is that as you have probably found, almost all of the info you have found online is either a national average or it is focused on life in either Geneva or Zurich area.  Salaries in St.Gallen are lower than in either of these areas but thankfully so is the cost of living.  There is also a large disparity across the country.

Housing
Single person: CHF350/mth is just about the bottom end of the scale for a single room studio apartment, but don’t expect any luxury. Reasonable studios and 1/2 room apartments go from about CHF 500 to 800 with the upper end being CHF 1200. For students, you may want to consider joining into a group of 3-4 people and for CHF 400 each you could get a very nice shared apartment with all the mod-cons. These prices are for unfurnished places as there are very few furnished options. Add about CHF 2-300 per month on for furnished apartments, but it may just be cheaper to pop to IKEA when you arrive.

Couple: Starting a about CHF550 for rock bottom 2 person studio apartment, but reasonable quality would be between CHF 700 to 900.  Bear in mind that many landlords won’t rent to you if they think that the apartment is too small for the number of people. So don’t think you can squeeze a family of 4 into a 1 room apartment to save money. The immigration office will also regret family visas if they think that your accommodation is too small.

Family (3-4 people): You need to start looking at apartments marked 3 rooms (zimmer) or upwards. The cheapest I have seen is about CHF 800/mth but if you have a child you should think of the area and basic hygene standards and start budgeting for CHF 1100 upwards.  Nice 4 room apartments start at around CHF 1500 up to CHF 2000 depending on the area.

And if you budget is above this then you probably don’t need my advice 🙂

Transport:
City bus: CHF 67/mth or about CHF 650 for the year gives you unlimited city wide (zone 10) travel on any transport.  You need a 1/2 price card (halbtax) to buy the 12 month version though.

Parking: Bluezone (roadside around the city) costs CHF 106/mth but don’t forget that you need to budget for parking at your apartment. This is rarely included and can cost anything from CHF 50-200/mth depending on the part of the city.  Landlords rarely include the parking for free but often have it as an extra rental cost.

Food:
The actual cost of food is pretty standard around Switzerland if you shop at the Coop or Migros. The big difference is when eating out. A cheap hot meal will cost about CHF 15-20,  an average restaurant will be CHF 30 and a nice place will CHF 50.  The one Japanese restaurant can get up to about CHF 80-100 per person though unless you plan to leave hungry 🙂

Generic costs
In case you don’t want to do your research else where, this is the amount I budgeted monthly for one working adult for some of the other generic costs:
– Groceries CHF 500
– Health insurance CHF 250
– Health costs CHF 100
– Mobile phone CHF 50
– Facilities (TV, phone, internet, water, etc.) CHF 400
– Miscellaneous CHF 1000 (trust me, this part disappears quickest of all in Switzerland)