Henry Hitchings has an op-ed in the New York Times (12/13/2013), "A Poor Apology for a Word", in which he claims that the British (and especially the English) are particularly fond of the word "sorry":
…A couple of years ago, I read an article in a British newspaper claiming that the average British person says “sorry” eight times a day — or “204,536 times in threescore years and ten,” in the reporter’s Old Testament idiom. My first reaction was to think this figure absurdly high, so I decided to put the claim to the test.
This initially tentative exercise turned into a monthlong audit of apologies. As soon as I began recording instances of the word in my day-to-day life, I realized that the eight-a-day number was a piddling lowball.
It's an entertaining essay, but I'm not so sure about the precision of the British newspaper article that he cites, nor about the rigorousness of his own "audit".
One thing I am sure of is that the Japanese would certainly give the British ( –> English) a run for their money when it comes to making apologies.
This reminds me of a silly, little joke:
An American working in Japan grew weary of hearing his Japanese colleagues constantly saying sumimasen すみません ("sorry") for every little thing.
So he complained to one of them, "You Japanese say sumimasen all the time. Don't you think you use it too often?"
To which his Japanese colleague replied apologetically, "Sumimasen!"
This is in contrast to the Chinese who are far more sparing in their use of "duìbùqǐ 对不起 / duìbùzhù 对不住" ("sorry"). Indeed, my mother-in-law taught her children not to SAY "sorry", but to BE sorry, better yet never to do something for which you'd feel ashamed in the first place, and my wife insisted on the same standards in our household.
Of course, there are many other ways to apologize in Chinese and Japanese, with varying nuances and implications. But I am not aware that either of these languages has a version of "sorry" that is like the aggressive one described by Hitchings where the person who has supposedly been wronged says "sorry" to the person who allegedly did the wronging. You have to experience the abject awkwardness of someone saying "sorry" to you after you've bumped into them to know how it feels.
[Hat tip Kathe McCleave]