Geographic Arbitrage in the Heart of Europe

Working on a project for optimizing shopping $$$ by cross-border shopping.

As Switzerland is rather small, it’s fairly easy to go “abroad” for shopping. Main destinations could be France, Germany, Italy (or Austria, Liechtenstein?). Curious how many of you regularly go shopping in France or Germany for realizing some instant profits from geographic arbitrage. I’m living in Basel and can reach both, France and Germany, within 10 minutes - we even got international tram lines, tram 3 goes to St. Louis while tram 8 goes to Weil am Rhein.

If you guys do this kind of shopping, what are usually your items? What are the items you’d prefer to buy in France? What are the items you’d prefer to buy in Germany? Which shops are you going to? Aldi, Lidl, Marktkauf, Hieber, Geant Casino, Carrefour?

Do you just go for the additional savings or is it also a recreational trip you’d enjoy?
How about the additional diversity and choice of “offshore-shopping”? Are some products better abroad (e.g. French wine, German beer,…)?

I’ll happily interact with any of you for further ideas/ questions/ inputs on this topic.

Happy Sunday,

Lausanne to Divonne or Pontarlier is a bit far but we do that from time to time, it has a recreational taste to buy “things you don’t find here”, it’s not directly driven by economical considerations… I did that way more in the past with my parents (~25 years ago), going to Evian/Thonon, it was definitely a bargain in the 90’s and worth the move but prices difference tended to flatten with the euro.

French meat is however definitely better than what we find here and terribly cheaper compared to the cr** they sell you at Migros. I also always load up several paper magazines, they are way cheaper. I noticed they have a greater choice in terms of yoghourts, crackers, etc. Sometimes a few special beer brands that you don’t find here in supermarkets. I checked kid toys but did not see a great gap between CH and FR prices, just had the feeling it was a bit cheaper for some of them (Duplo/Lego) though not astonishing considering we have opportunities sometimes in CH with -30% before Christmas. Leclerc, Carrefour, Intermarché, we don’t focus on a single brand and may pick a shop we never visited yet, we don’t visit them often enough to determinate which one is the “Coop of France” and which one is the “Migros”.

The only thing that looks more expensive/not interesting in France supermarkets are electronic devices, I prefer to buy these items online.


Hi Matt,

Living in Geneva, I think meat is the most interesting thing to buy in France, both for pure price reason and choice/quality as albert pointed out (although I find Migros/Coop offerings to be OK) the rest I didn’t find so critical and with the low VAT we get some stuff cheaper (e.g. electronics like albert mentioned).

I don’t have a car so that limits my options in that regard and I would rather save some time with the convenience of the Migros/Coop down my block (which could even potentially have a better financial return).

I think it can even be in some cases penny wise pound foolish: an acquaintance of mine justifies owning his car by saying it allows him to do it (if it’s the main reason I’m not sure it’s financially that great) and when I once went with him, he was paying with his UBS card so getting hit with nasty conversion fees.


Even though we live just across the border of Germany, we go there rarely. But we have a shipping address there, so we use this a lot for internet purchases which won’t be delivered to Switzerland. If we buy groceries, it’s mainly snacks.