May 16, 2015

Overapologetic Britain

According to Debretts: "For many British people, apologizing is a default reaction to life's little irritants. If someone barges into you, treads on your toes or spills your drink, it is considered quite normal for the victim to mutter 'sorry'. This is clearly illogical, but for many British people it is an ingrained response."

Before moving to the UK I didn't know that it was a thing for British people to apologize about everything, even if you're actually the "victim".

The funny thing is that I'm not British and I do exactly the same thing. I don't think I started doing it since I arrived to Britain, I think it's my natural reaction. So it got me thinking… and I've come to the conclusion that although apologizing in many situations might seem illogical, it serves a very important purpose. In this case "sorry" doesn't mean that you're sorry; but, by exchanging "sorry" both the offending person and the victim in this little social inconvenience (e.g. bumping into each other in the tube) come to an immediate understanding that it was accidental and that no aggression or disrespect was meant: all in a split second. It's a way to maintain peace, and to avoid unnecessary conflict.

So, to me, it kind of makes sense and it's a good thing.

Camden town street art
Camden High Street, NW1