As an Englishman I have been conditioned to say sorry to everyone.

For example, “I’m sorry to hear that your father died last week.” Or “I’m sorry to disturb you. I need your advice about something.” Or “I’m very sorry. I didn’t quite catch what you said.”

While living here in Germany, I realize that “sorry” is not seen so much as a word to express empathy, but instead a word used as an admission of guilt. So on a couple of occasions, having said “sorry”, I have had the response “why? it’s not your fault.”

And on a few occasions, “are you admitting responsibility?” and that’s when things get unfortunately serious.

Most German people appreciate a “sorry” once in a while, but just don’t overuse it.