Continental Europe

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"The Continent" redirects here. For other uses, see Continent (disambiguation).
Continental Europe (green)

Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent (particularly by British, Irish, and those from other European islands), is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding the islands of Europe.[1]

The most common definition of continental Europe excludes the Greek Islands, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands, Iceland, Ireland, the United Kingdom and its dependencies. The Scandinavian peninsula is sometimes also excluded, mostly historically speaking, owing to its near physical detachment from the rest of the continent. Most definitions extend the boundaries of the continent to its standard boundaries: the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus Mountains.[citation needed]


United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the Continent is widely and generally used to refer to the mainland of Europe. An apocryphal British newspaper headline supposedly once read, "Fog in Channel; Continent Cut Off".[2] It has also been claimed that this was a regular weather forecast in Britain in the 1930s.[3] In addition, the word Europe itself is also regularly used to mean Europe excluding the islands of Great Britain, Iceland, and Ireland (although the term is often used to refer to the European Union[4]). The term mainland Europe is also sometimes used.

Derivatively, the adjective continental refers to the social practices or fashion of continental Europe as opposed to those of Britain. Examples include breakfast, topless sunbathing and, historically, long-range driving (before Britain had motorways) often known as Grand Touring.[citation needed]. Continental Europe, when compared to Britain, has numerous defined differences both cultural and tangible.[original research?] In Britain, examples include different electrical plugs, different time zones for the most part, a different currency, the use of left-hand traffic just as in Ireland, Malta, and Cyprus (the only 4 EU members but 4 European countries that are traditionally not joined in the list of Continental European countries), and the continued use of imperial units alongside metric.

The United Kingdom is physically connected to continental Europe through the undersea Channel Tunnel (the longest undersea tunnel in the world), which accommodates both the Eurotunnel (passenger and vehicle use - vehicle required) and Eurostar (passenger use only) services. These services were established to transport passengers and vehicles through the tunnel on a 24/7 basis from the United Kingdom to continental Europe and vice versa, while still maintaining the appropriate passport and immigration control measures on both sides of the tunnel. In 2015, rising number of migrants entering Europe from across the Mediterranean has led to thousands attempting to illegally cross into the United Kingdom through the tunnel. This has resulted disruption to services as well as a limited number of successful crossing, however most migrants continue to live in makeshift camps around Calais. French authorities have responded by increasing security around the tunnel terminal, while also attempting to document migrants and provide temporary shelters.[5]


Map of the Scandiae islands by Nicolaus Germanus for a 1467 publication of Cosmographia Claudii Ptolomaei Alexandrini.

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 and the like, 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 that refers to the area 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, usually referring to Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Benelux countries, and such. However, technically the Scandinavian peninsula is accessible these days by train and road with several bridge/tunnel structures connecting Danish peninsula Jutland to Scania in Sweden, without having to travel the long route through Russia.

Mediterranean and Atlantic islands[edit]

The Continent may sometimes refer to the continental part of Italy (excluding Sardinia, Sicily, etc.), the continental part of Spain (excluding the Balearic islands, the Canary Islands, Alboran, etc.), the continental part of France (excluding Corsica, etc.), the continental part of Portugal (excluding the Madeira and Azores islands), or the continental part of Greece (excluding the Ionian Islands, the Aegean Islands, and Crete). The term 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[edit]


  1. ^ "Merriam Webster dictionary definition". 
  2. ^ Oakley, Robin (April 19, 2005). "Europe no star as election issue". CNN. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  3. ^ Fog in Channel? (book)
  4. ^ Fraser, Douglas (August 15, 2011). "Britain pushes hard choices for Europe's hard core". BBC News. 
  5. ^