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'Some days I think my funeral idea is crazy'

George Mills · 10 Jul 2013, 17:20

Published: 10 Jul 2013 17:20 GMT+02:00

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How did you end up in Spain Daniel?

My father was Spanish, and my mother was Swiss.

I actually spent the first 40 years of my life in Switzerland — I come from Basel — but then I decided to have go at living here in Valencia.

I've been here for eight years now.

What is your professional background?

I have a marketing background, and I was a director of marketing in Switzerland.

Through my brother, who is a dentist, I got involved in the dental industry and I still run a company involved with the marketing of dental clinics.

I run courses on the subject in Switzerland and am currently writing a book — in German — on the topic.

So how did you start organizing funerals in Spain?

The idea initially arose when my father died.

Although my family has a traditional Spanish mausoleum in a cemetery in Valencia, my father had actually written in his will that he wanted a natural funeral.

He was buried at the foot of a pine tree he loved near Valencia.

It was a very special day, and I realized then that having a funeral in a natural setting, or a 'green funeral' really helps to take some out of the sadness out of the experience.

Before that, I had never really thought about the issue of funerals, but then I started to turn over the idea of setting up a funeral business.

I spent quite some time talking to friends and family about the issue and it went from there.

Tell me a little about the business.

We provide two main services.

The first is the scattering of ashes — over the Mediterranean Sea or among pines here near Valencia and on the Costa Blanca.

We also have a Memory Grove where we bury urns. This is an area of orange trees outside of Valencia.

And who are your target clients?

Basically, we provide services for people from countries like England, or Germany or Switzerland who either don't want to buried in a cemetery or who want something exotic.

Then, of course, there are people who have a special relationship with Spain.

For them, they can have their urn buried in Spain at a place like the Memory Grove and that provides a physical point of reference they can turn to.

How is the business going?

We are still in the development phase, but we have conducted a number of ceremonies.

I share an office with a lawyer and he has assisted me with the legal side of things.

Has that side of things been difficult, given that you are providing a funeral service?

I would have to say no, not really.

Here in Valencia, it's not illegal to scatter ashes at sea or in a natural setting.

The authorities don't see these ashes as toxic or contaminating, which is different from England or Germany.

For the burying of the urns, I have invested in some private land which has become the Memory Grove.

Did you go to banks in Spain for credit for that land?

To be honest, I didn't. I used savings from Switzerland.

The situation with banks in Spain is very difficult, and they seem to change their mind on whether they are going to offer credit from one week to the next.

I would rather steer clear.

Do you have any doubts about the business?

There are some days when I think the whole idea is crazy and I wonder what the hell I'm doing.

On the other hand, some experiences make you feel really positive.

Story continues below…

For example, a few weeks ago, an 83-year-old woman who lives in Munich, Germany contacted me.

She came out to Spain and I took her out on a boat and showed her the area. Now we've organized everything.

She said to me: "I want to make my last journey here."

So I really think this could be a business for the future.

And would you ever consider going back to Switzerland?

I'm too old! I'm 48.

Seriously, I spoke to a headhunter in Switzerland recently and he said: "If you are going to come back, you have to come back now."

Once you hit 50, it's over.

I love Spain though, and am happy being here.

What do you friends in Switzerland say about your life in Spain?

We always have a bit of a laugh about it.

They look at me and say, "Wow, you're life in Spain is so interesting. You always have interesting projects on the go".

I look at them and say, "But look at all the money you earn, and the great holidays you have!"

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

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