Magazine topic: 
Life around the world
Total votes: 72

Sorry, excuse me, please could I possibly...

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You may or may not have heard a stereotype that British people are very polite, sometimes too polite. That they always apologise for everything, even things that don't necessarily need to be apologised for, and they can spend a long time doing so. For me it is normal to do this. I am a very polite person and will always apologise for walking into someone or getting in someone's way in the street and I normally also expect that the other person involved will apologise too.

Before I moved to Germany I was told that Europeans are more direct and not as unnecessarily polite as us Brits. The thought didn't bother me because I did not really see myself as overly polite until I moved over here. Here there is no need for an apology when you stand on someone's toe or try to walk in the same direction as another person. I am constantly surprised that people do not apologise to me when they have stood on my foot, hit me over the head with their bag or just walked straight into me because I am so used to it. One of my colleagues over here explained to me that most Germans feel no need to apologise as both people involved should know that it was an accident. It was not a deliberate or intended action and therefore needs no apology.

Of course this now makes sense to me. When you're in a rush or are very busy, why waste time apologising over and over again to someone who already knows that you did not mean something? I still find it very strange though and often find myself muttering a quiet "sorry" when something like this occurs. I then still find it strange when I don't receive an apology back. I hope that I will get more used to this as sometimes it can leave me feeling quite annoyed or upset and have to always remind myself of the fact that an apology has not been said because it is not needed! My over-politeness also comes across in conversations where I may apologise for disagreeing with an opinion or something someone has said, and they look at me like I'm crazy because I have apologised, or ask me why on earth I am apologising for something. It's a hard habit to break but hopefully with time I will get used to this, although it will probably be just in time for me to return to the UK where I will aggravate other Brits by not apologising again for everything!

Language level: 

Do you apologise when you bump into someone in the street? How polite are you? 


sanpai28's picture
sanpai28 5 October, 2015 - 08:23

When I bump into someone in the street, I apologise by saying "sorry".When I walk into someone or pass over someone who is much older than me in the crowded street, I bend myself and I change into normal when I have passed over. This is our religion's general politeness and this shows the elders the younger ones' respect.
In my opinion I think that it doesn't waste time to say sorry to apologize someone although he knows it was an accident.May be he would even appreciate your politeness. So I think politeness is not an overacting.

22 users have voted.
Ken's picture
Ken 15 April, 2015 - 11:12

I'm trying to be polite to things around us (environment and anything made by someone) as well as to other people. I think it's an elementary skill in a social life. So I understand that over politeness can sometimes be rude, because it doesn't necessarily demonstrate sincerity!

24 users have voted.
hadia's picture
hadia 14 April, 2015 - 10:16

Yeah! I always apologize if I knock someone down and if situation like this happen with me I simply apologize to that person in a very polite manner but really it's very embarrassing it might happen that the person would think of you as an unsophisticated person or having no manners or etc ! I am usually careful in handling these situations!

19 users have voted.
JOVANI's picture
JOVANI 10 March, 2015 - 20:35

Polite is so beautiful qualities .Be polite,say hello,offer to help,hold the door,smile,use `` please ``&`` thank you ``&`` sorry ``.then your life will be very beautiful and great. i am polite so i am very happy.

22 users have voted.
dzeni's picture
dzeni 24 March, 2014 - 16:55

Yes, of course. I always try to be polite but sometimes that`s impossible. There are so many rude people.

20 users have voted.
Bosnianchild's picture
Bosnianchild 10 December, 2013 - 16:45

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, people are very polite people. They apologize and invite you on coffee. Yes, I apologize.

19 users have voted.
MALINE's picture
MALINE 23 November, 2013 - 21:21

I apologise to people when I hit them in the subway because it is always crowded or at the bus with my purse.
Once I ran into a men in the strret and he was eating "platanos fritos" (sliced banana,strawberry jam and condensated milk) and I throw them to the floor,I was really ashamed and I apologized over and over.

21 users have voted.
KatieP's picture
KatieP 10 December, 2013 - 09:44

I personally think that is the right thing to do, but I have come across a lot of people in Germany who don't even look at you if they knock you over, let alone apologise.

It's so embarrassing when you knock people over but I think apologising shows them it really was an accident and that you didn't mean it. Last week me and a woman got tangled up on the train and I managed to knock her to the floor, it was so embarrassing!

22 users have voted.