Robertson Languages > Language > Grammar and usage > Continental comestible confusion

Continental comestible confusion

Jul 22 in Culture, Grammar and usage, Translation

I don’t know about you, but this is what I expect my continental breakfasts to look like

When you’re offered a “continental breakfast”, what do you think of? One online definition gives “a hotel breakfast that may include sliced bread with butter/jam/honey, cheese, meat, croissants, pastries, rolls, fruit juice and various hot beverages.” From personal experience, I’d say you’d be lucky to get as much as that – a cynic on a well-known web forum probably had it about right when he said: “It means you’re hungry by 10:30″.

So why the question? Well, I discovered the other day that the term apparently doesn’t mean the same thing to all Europeans as it does to British people. Our recent Italian lodger was a little surprised, after we’d announced one morning that we’d be serving a continental breakfast, when what he actually got was a selection of pastries and bread products with tea and coffee. It turns out he was expecting something more like what you or I (well, assuming you’re acquainted with British ways) would term a “full English”.

I’ve since done a bit of looking around on the web, and found very little by way of supporting evidence for his view (my Italian isn’t that strong, but on the one Italian website I could find that seemed to be venturing an opinion in this respect, even Italians now appear to interpret the “continental” qualifier as meaning “not Britain”). So I’m left wondering whether this is another example of everyday cultural gaps to be bridged; or is my friend the only one with this mental image of the continental breakfast? Write in and let us know!


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