First, we need some perspective. When I moved from a Nottingham, a small town in the UK, to London, I had to have a housemate. Food costs were higher, it was more expense and hassle to travel. No one is surprised by this. Similarly, if you move to a new country, you're going to find costs are different. You're simply going to have a different quality of life if you're living in the première arrondissement de Paris instead of Soweto.
|Boudin noir tastes better than it looks|
Photo by Naotake Murayama
While we're on the subject of lifestyle choices, be aware that cost of living indicators also don't prepare you for the individual surprises each country has. When I lived in the US and the UK, I used to hit bookstores, browse for hours and walk out with several new books at a time. My wife did the same. Note the past tense. Here in the Netherlands, thanks to a minimum fixed book price (which has interesting side-effects), even cheap mass market paperbacks cost €17 to €18 each. This has impacted our lifestyle, but won't necessarily impact yours.
Similarly, if you drive everywhere, you'll find your lifestyle impacted by a country which charges €0.5 a liter versus one which changes €5 a liter. You might also move to a city, like London, with a congestion charge where you have to pay for your daily commute. I don't drive any more (though I've been thinking about getting my license again), so this doesn't impact me.
|This could have a dramatic budget impact|
Photo by Martin Abegglen
So what you really want to know about the cost of living is what salary to ask for. I can't help you there because I don't know your career, your background, where you're coming from or where you're going to. You're the only person who can really answer that and if you read the work permit series and you followed the advice I laid down, you already know what someone in your position should be earning.
The only caveat I can add is that you should be aware of the legal issues with minimum wages. Specifically, many countries will not allow you to be hired if you're paid less than the national average for your position, though in practice said average is not always well defined. Furthermore, you may be hired as a highly skilled migrant or have certain legal benefits as an immigrant (such as tax rulings) which require you to be paid a minimum salary to take effect. In short, make sure you know what minimums apply to your situation. Many employers will try to get your for the best price possible and may inadvertently (or not) try to hire you at less than a legal wage and you could find yourself technically being an illegal immigrant as a result. Don't let this happen to you!
In short: if you've researched your opportunities, you know what your job should pay and you should ask for a salary which reflects that and your skills. After that, be prepared to adjust your lifestyle to fit your new country rather than have your new country fit your lifestyle. It's not as satisfying an answer as explaining the cost of living, but it's often a more honest one.