Off topic: Etiquette in the UK - death of a business friend
Thread poster: Penelope Ausejo

Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:32
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 23, 2009

Good morning,

I have a questions for the UK people here.

My friend did an internship about 25 years ago in the UK. Since then, he kept a penpal relationship with his boss and they saw each other a few times (not many). However, they write to each other a couple of times a year. Today, he has received a letter (not personalized, addressed to everybody) informing that his wife has passed away after a long illness. The letter informs about the funeral and the following reception.

I have 2 questions:

1.- What does the UK etiquette in these cases say? What should he do in order to be polite and nice to his friend? Send a telegram? Send a letter? Other?

2.- The letter includes this sentence "Family flowers only, please". Does this mean that they only want their family to send flowers? Could someone please confirm it?

Thank you very much in advance! (it is quite urgent!)

To the site staff: couldn't we have a forum for etiquette, habits and the like in each country?

[Edited at 2009-01-23 12:20 GMT]


Lenah Susianty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:32
Member (2004)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
a card would be sufficient Jan 23, 2009

In my opinion , a card of sympathy will be sufficient. What counts it's the thought . I think his boss would be pleased to receive a card from him.


Sarah Wood  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:32
French to English
I agree Jan 23, 2009


I agree, a card would be respectful and appropriate. 'Family flowers only' means that only family members should send flowers to the funeral.

I think your friend is very thoughtful to ask the question first.



Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:32
English to Spanish
+ ...
Thanks Jan 23, 2009

Thanks for your answers.

Here, in these cases we would send a telegram. At least that was what my mom showed me to do, when someone from another city passed away and I wasn't going to the funeral or memorial services.


Dana Rinaldi
Local time: 20:32
Italian to English
+ ...
a card Jan 23, 2009

In fact in Italy too we send telegrams.

My mother was irish and she had relatives in Ireland and in the UK. When she passed away the irish and many american relatives sent mass cards (you have a mass said for the person and then send a card with the date of the mass and so on). Instead the english friends and relatives sent cards of sympathy.

In Italy one expects to receive a telegram. It's custom here.



Lia Fail (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
cards mass cards telegrams flowers Jan 23, 2009

In Spain it's next to impossible to get sympathy cards or mass cards, in my experience.

A telegram seems like it might be a suitable alternative.

I would interpret "family flowers" as flowers only from family.

Oops, forgot to mention I'm Irish, not from the UK. Mass cards probably wouldn't be so typical in the UK but sympathy cards yes.

[Edited at 2009-01-23 15:38 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-01-23 15:39 GMT]


Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:32
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Send a letter of condolence Jan 23, 2009

I think the right thing would be for your friend to send a handwritten letter by post to the gentleman expressing condolences and/or sympathy on his loss. If your friend knew the gentleman's late wife, it would be good to say something appreciative about her. If not, just sympathy for his bereavement.
Kind regards,


Khrystene (X)
Polish to English
+ ...
Indeed... Jan 23, 2009

Yes, they should send a card of sympathy to him. I personally believe simple is always best.

Also, the 'family flowers' means, as someone else pointed out, that the family should only send flowers, not other friends, acquaintences, etc.


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