Continental Europe Explained

Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent (particularly by the British, Icelanders and other European island nations), is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands.

The most common definition of continental Europe excludes Cyprus, Iceland, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom and its dependencies. Most definitions of Continental Europe extend the boundaries of the continent to its standard boundaries, the Ural Mountains, Ural River, Caspian Sea, and Caucasus Mountains.

Use in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Continent is used to refer to the mainland of Europe. It is widespread practice in the media in the UK (and elsewhere) to use the word Europe to mean continental Europe; that is, "Europe" excludes Britain, Iceland, and Ireland (though the term is sometimes used to refer to the European Union[1]). Occasionally, the term mainland Europe is used. A famous British newspaper headline once read, "Fog in Channel; Continent Cut Off". It has also been claimed that this was a regular weather forecast in Britain in the 1930s.[2]

Derivatively, the adjective continental refers to the social practices or fashion of continental Europe, as opposed to those in Britain. Examples include breakfast, topless sunbathing and, historically, long-range driving before Britain had motorways.

Scandinavia

Especially in Germanic studies, continental refers to the European continent excluding the Scandinavian peninsula, Britain, Ireland and Iceland. The reason for this is that although the Scandinavian peninsula is attached to Continental Europe by Karelia etc., it is usually reached by sea, not by land (which would require travelling north as far as Tornio at the 66th parallel north). Kontinenten  - the Continent  - is a vernacular Swedish expression excluding Sweden, Norway and Finland, but including Denmark (even the Danish archipelago) and the rest of continental Europe. In Norway, similarly, one speaks about Kontinentet as a separate entity (in most cases referring to Germany, France and the Benelux countries).

Mediterranean and other Atlantic islands

The continent may sometimes refer to the continental part of Italy (excluding Sardinia, Sicily, etc.), the continental part of Spain (as opposed to the Balearic islands, the Canary Islands, Alboran, etc.), the continental part of France (as opposed to Corsica, etc.), or the continental part of Portugal (as opposed to the Madeira Islands and Azores). That is used from the perspective of the island residents of each country to describe the continental portion of their country or the continent (or mainland) as a whole.

See also

Notes and References

  1. News: Britain pushes hard choices for Europe's hard core. BBC News. Douglas. Fraser. August 15, 2011.
  2. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fog-Channel-Exploring-Britains-Relationship/dp/1907149066 Fog in Channel? (book)