Hmmmm... You're impression is entirely different than mine.
In LA, a job at starbucks pays $9 an hour and you pay $600 - $800 for rent to have your own room in a 2 bedroom. A beer at a bar is usually $5- $8 depending on what you get.
In Switzerland, a job at starbucks pays $19 (USD) an hour and you pay around $600 - $700 (usd) for rent to have your own room in a 2 bedroom. A beer is $7 - 9 USD
Groceries are significantly cheaper in Switzerland/France/Most of europe.
Clothing is about the same price after conversion.
The only thing that actually costs more are hotels and restaurants... so touristy things. And movies... movies are around $20 a ticket.
I'm going to Switzerland for 5 months starting in May (I can only do that because I was there in February). And staying in a large 1 bedroom on the most main street of Luzern with a balcony that looks at the river and fortress/castle. Rent's only $804 after the conversion. I pay more for a smaller apartment in Mammoth.
Depends what you are used to, but compared to CA it's pretty equal and the Swiss franc converts way better for people in the US than the Kroner does.
It's $1.11 for a swiss Franc, $1.31 for a Euro and
Krones are anywhere from 3 times to 5 times more valuable than a dollar. Travel costs aren't as high, but living costs are. A glass of beer is 50 - 70 krones. So $10 - $14 USD. It's an amazing place to travel, but it's insanely expensive to get started there.
And, if you're trying to exchange with cash... You'll be paying a lot more. It's $1.66 per euro at most exchange places changing USD into Euros. Best exchange rate I found is through Debit Card with Bank of America. Only 1% transaction rate and free to pull out cash at a lot of banks if you do the research.
I'll be having to BofA accounts and pulling out a lot of cash at the free ATMs and transferring into a Swiss account/ and probably a french as well for Euros. Cause there some places wont take american credit cards cause they aren't chipped. Transit places specifically.. Need cash for a bus/train ticket.
I only know so much cause I'm doing the exact same thing, only continuing work for myself, and doing it all legally in case for some reason I do end up wanting to work or stay or something.
Those are the actual Visa laws if you want to go out there and look for a job. Section 7 is the important one. I even emailed the Swiss consulate to confirm I was doing everything legally. Could be worth a call to the US embassy when you figure out what country you want to work in. They are pretty cool about it.
1 thing to keep in mind, if you get a job in Europe legitimately, you will need to pay the european taxes, as well as US income tax for your first year. So if you move to a country where you are paying 40+% in taxes, you'll have to pay US tax on top of that.
If you have any questions, I've been preparing for this since February, I've got a lot of answers.