England is England, the Continent is the Continent.
Dear Matthew: My colleagues and I are at a standoff as to whether England is considered a part of Europe or not. They say it is, but I disagree. I recall that in college it was stressed that Great Britain is separate from Europe, and that the British people take exception to being referred to as “Europeans,” when, in fact, they refer to Europe as “the Continent.” Who’s correct? — Steve Jorgensen, Escondido
Matt: If the English drive on the left, do they also walk on the left side of a sidewalk, passing right shoulders — the opposite of America? If I go to England and keep to the right when I walk, will I keep bumping into people? — A Pedestrian, San Diego
Nigel F.J. Crumpet-Wicket, staff Anglo-whiz, harrumphs something that translates to, “The English don’t walk on sidewalks, they walk on pavements.” That vocabulary detail out of the way, he says there’s a “slight but noticeable tendency” to walk on the left, but it is “neither universal nor expected.” We get considerably more harrumphing on the other question. As a small island, nation and one-time dominant world power with a long history of assaults from the mainland, the British do not consider themselves Europeans. “We treasure our insularity. When we talk of Eurodollars and Eurotrash, we wouldn’t think for a moment that we are including ourselves,” sniffs Nigel. England is England, the Continent is the Continent, and it will take more than the chunnel and the EEC to change that. Any geographer, of course, would say the British are delusional, and there’s no question that Great Britain is part of the European continent. A crisis of loyalties for British geographers, it seems.