The most common definition of continental Europe excludes continental islands, encompassing the Greek Islands, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands, Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Novaya Zemlya and the Danish archipelago, as well as nearby oceanic islands, including the Canary Islands, Madeira, the Azores, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Svalbard.
The Scandinavian peninsula is sometimes also excluded, as even though it is technically part of "mainland Europe", the de facto connections to the rest of the continent are across the Baltic Sea or North Sea (rather than via the lengthy land route that involves travelling to the north of the peninsula where it meets Finland, and then south through north-east Europe).
The notion of Europe as a geopolitical or cultural term is centred on core Europe (Kerneuropa), the continental territory of the historical Carolingian Empire and the core of Latin Christendom, corresponding to modern France, Italy, Germany (or German-speaking Europe) and the Benelux states (historical Austrasia). This historical core of "Carolingian Europe" was consciously invoked in the 1950s as the historical ethno-cultural basis for the prospective European integration (see also Multi-speed Europe).
In both Great Britain and Ireland, 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". It has also been claimed that this was a regular weather forecast in Britain in the 1930s. 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). The term mainland Europe is also sometimes used.
Derivatively, the adjective continental refers to the social practices or fashion of continental Europe. Examples include breakfast, topless sunbathing and, historically, long-range driving (before Britain had motorways) often known as Grand Touring. Differences include electrical plugs, time zones for the most part, the use of left-hand traffic, and for the United Kingdom, currency and the continued use of imperial units alongside metric.