What are the 7 Continents of the World?
People tend to think of the seven continents in terms of large land portions. While this understanding is certainly helpful, there is much more to continents!
Think about, for example, how all continents have islands that are separate from the main land mass. The continent of Australia has islands like New Zealand and Papua New Guinea; Europe has Iceland, Great Britain, Ireland, and Greenland (to name just a few); and Asia is home to Sri Lanka, Japan, and the massive archipelagos of the Philippines and Indonesia. Even Antarctica has islands!
Consider also that Europe and Asia are part of the same land mass but are deemed to be two separate continents. This separation is because the cultures on one side of the land mass are substantially different from the cultures on the other side.
To best understand the seven continents, rather than merely thinking about land, think in terms of geographical features along with shared histories and cultures. Iceland and Greenland are far from mainland Europe, but they were both settled by Nordic peoples from Scandinavia; therefore these areas still connect regarding a cultural ancestry with many Europeans. However, even though Greenland is governed by Denmark and was settled by Vikings, it is considered part of North America.
North America was originally inhabited by numerous tribes of Native Americans, some of which still exist and practice indigenous cultures and traditions. However, they were overwhelmed by European settlers who brought slaves from Africa. These settlers went on to build large farms that supported large cities – and for a long time, both the farms and cities were largely supported by slave labor. This cultural history makes the United States and Canada very similar to each other and very different from other parts of the world.
But what about Mexico? Isn’t Mexico part of North America? Yes, technically, as are many Central American countries, including Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. In terms of geographical features, Mexico and Central America, as well as the Caribbean islands, are part of North America. Culturally, though, parts of the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America tend to be grouped with South America in a region known as Latin America.
Most of the people in these countries speak Spanish (although Brazil’s dominant language is notably Portuguese), and the dominant religion is Catholicism. So are Mexico and Central America part of North America? This answer really depends on whether you ask a geographer or an anthropologist!
There are seven continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. Each continent is extremely diverse – even Antarctica has various teams of scientists from all over the world, as well as different animals that live there. Think of them as mega-regions – they have some broad, general things in common, but when discussed in terms of individual people groups that live on each continent, there can be profound differences.
For example, the diversity between the Yupik peoples of Alaska and the inhabitants of New Orleans, even though they are on the same continent, are probably greater than the differences between the Yupik and the Ainu peoples of Japan. So keep in mind that studying continents requires thinking in broad, general terms that may not apply to everyone on the continent.