When my wife and I came to the UK from Thailand, she asked me why English people say “please” and “thank you” so often. This happened after a bus ride. I got on and asked for “two to Birmingham please”. The driver replied, “five pounds please”. I gave him the money, and he said “thank you”. I took the tickets and said “thank you”. On leaving the bus, I said “thank you, driver”.
My wife asked me why there were so many “please”s and “thank you”s. After all, she explained, he had only done his job; there was no service performed above his usual day-to-day tasks.
In Thai, there is an equivalent of “thank you”, but there isn’t a similar way to say “please”. You can say “khor” as in “khor beer song khwat” (“may [I have] two bottles [of] beer”) but you can also easily say “khor hai aroi” which translates as “may [it] give deliciousness” (or “bon appetit”). To ask for something vehemently needs “karuna”, which is the Sanskrit word for “compassion” or “mercy”; that is, “I beg you”, which is stronger than English social “please”.
I’ve noticed that French and Turkish speakers say “please” and “thank you” regularly (those are the only other languages I speak), whereas Americans seem not to do so; they’re more like Thai speakers and only seem to use it when requesting or acknowledging something beyond what could generally be expected of the person they’re talking to, and not as absolutely necessary in general transactions. That is, in the US, you can say “I want a beer” rather than “a beer, please” and it’s still considered perfectly polite. My Mum woud have given me a clip around the ear if I didn’t say “please” (like saying “what?” which is polite in the USA but horribly rude in British English).
It seems to me that English in England is unnecessarily polite — but I couldn’t bring myself not to follow the rules. Do you say “please” and “thank you” so regularly in your language or culture?