The Difference Between Funerals in Australia and the UK

Our wonderful Kurt has just returned from spending the last 6 months or so working as a Funeral Director in the United Kingdom.  So we asked him to give us a little insight into what it was like working there in comparison to working in the industry here in Australia.  Here’s what he had to say:

Having worked in the industry here for a few years before going to England, it was surprising to see how differently we do things. I was amazed by how formal and ceremonial services were, every part carried out with military precision. I was use to being a Funeral Professional here but they take it to a whole other level. Unlike the UK, a massive difference I found was that we’re much warmer, more approachable and connect on much deeper level with families here in Australia. In the UK, a Funeral Director, is more focussed on doing ‘the job” rather than connecting with the families they serve. 

As far as the service itself, as most of you who have ever been to funeral here would know, you would arrive at the location, whether it be a chapel or church, where the Funeral Directors are already set up and waiting. They might have an attendance or memorial book for you to sign, an order of service or tribute card to give you as a memorial or appreciation from the family. In England however, the funeral directors wouldn’t arrive until 5 minutes before the service is due to begin, and what an entrance they make. The hearse will come down the street or driveway and stop 50-100m before the entrance to the building, the conductor gets out in his 3 piece suit with a traditional tailcoat, top hat and cane, or for ladies, her skirt and jacket, and leads the vehicle in on foot.

When they get to the door they step aside and turn to face the hearse, bowing as the coffin passes. Once the vehicle comes to a stop, the conductor lifts the tailgate as all 3 doors open together and the crew step out. They all walk to the rear of the hearse together and wait in position to carry out for everyone to get there. Military Precision! 

If we’d picked up the family from their home in our limos, which was often the case, the 2 cars would follow the hearse and the drivers would open the doors on arrival to let passengers out before joining the crew at the rear of the hearse in-formation, to carry out. Once everyone was in position the conductor takes the bier pin from behind the coffin and begins to roll it out. As the coffin rolls out the crew hold it from underneath and step out to line it up with the door. The conductor walks around to the front and instructs the crew to lift onto their shoulders and turns to lead into the building. We’d wait a moment (3 seconds) and everyone would march in on their left foot.  Shoulder carrying was the normal practice in the UK, whereas here, it is much less common and poses many more OHS risks to the pall bearers, one of the main reasons that we pall bear at arms length in Australia. 

Once the coffin is marched in and positioned, the conductor and crew would form a semi circle around it and bow together before marching out in single file. If the family were to be taken somewhere after the service, the limos would wait while the hearse heads off. Here on the other hand once everyone’s in the chapel we run the multimedia and do any special requests the family have made to make sure the service runs smoothly and the life of the Deceased person is celebrated in a meaningful and personal way.  

For us in Australia, a Funeral is a much more personal and unique experience, with the focus being on the Deceased and their Family, rather than the focus being on the Funeral Director performance.  I think there are some elements that I would like to include in services here in Australia, and others that I am pleased to leave in the UK.  All in all, it was a great experience to have worked as a Funeral Director in both the UK and Australia and has certainly allowed me to have a deeper passion for our industry.

If you have questions about funerals, why not get in touch with us on 1300 043 522 or email [email protected]

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