Everything Pokemon Gets Right (And Wrong) About the Real U.K.

The Galar Region looks like a much friendlier place than where I live.

It’s pretty obvious the Galar Region of Pokemon Sword & Shield is based on jolly ol’ Britannia. From the countryside of Postwick, all the way up to Wyndon, the linear map might not make much sense when you consider the harsh changes in weather, but the topography is unmistakable. We’re playing in a fantastical version of the United Kingdom.

Pokemon games have based regions on real-world locations since the very beginning of the series. Heck, Kanto is the name of a real area of Japan! But each new generation takes more than a simple slice of the landscape: fashion, weather, and even the local language often come along for the ride. So as a resident of the queen’s country, it’s only natural that I nitpick some of the ways Galar feels like home… and some of the ways it would make old Liz cry..

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Wait… Where Am I!?

1. Mailboxes? Nah, mate.

This was the initial trigger for my righteous crusade. One of the first things I noticed when leaving my cozy Postwick cottage to embark on a grand adventure was the mailbox at the end of my countryside garden. A mailbox? In England? I’m not having it. While I don’t exactly live out in the sticks, I’m not a city boy, either. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an outdoor mailbox for a single house on anything other than my TV.

Royal Mail posties are bold enough to slot that junk straight into a letterbox on the front door — a flap you can clearly still see on my Postwick abode. It’s one or the other, Game Freak, and you’re having a laugh if you think we’re stepping outside to get our 40th life insurance leaflet of the week.

2. Where are the fade haircuts?

With online shopping killing the highstreet, there are only two things we have in abundance in the U.K. right now: barbershops and takeout restaurants. So where are all the trendy fade haircuts? Rose gets close, but without a zigzag pattern sliced into his short back and sides, he’s barely worth looking at.

Is it because roughly 80 percent of the NPCs in Pokemon Sword & Shield are pre-schoolers skipping class? They are a bit young for having their heads look like Tommy Pickles’ favorite ball, for sure. But seeing a primary school kid on Route 6 after being sent home from school for having a star etched into the side of their skull would at least give them a solid reason to try and knock out my Pokemon.

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3. Coppers? Never heard of em’.

The 2010s have seen a massive reduction in public service spending. And the country’s police force (sorry, “service”) has taken a very noticeable hit. It’s incredibly rare to see a cop just patrolling the streets these days. And it’s not that they’re out having a brew at Costa, either. They just don’t exist. So running into a policeman on nearly every route in Pokemon Sword & Shield feels like going back in time.

A Galar cop is far more doll-eyed than your typical English copper, too, but both are ready and willing to fight you for having the gall to get within 50 meters. Maybe they’re like everyone else in the country at the minute. Maybe they just see everyone as a potential mugger. The way they holster their Poké Balls like handguns or billy clubs seems to indicate as much.

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Ah! Home Sweet Home…

1. “This train is delayed due to a late-running train.”

One of the first roadblocks in your Galarian adventure is caused by a herd of Wooloo on the railroads, and if there’s anything we’re known for the U.K., it’s our absolutely abysmal train service. We’re small enough to get you from one end of the country to the other in a couple of hours (at about half your monthly wages), but good luck getting there on time. It’s no-doubt the first thing Game Freak reps noticed when coming over from Japan to scout out their inspiration.

If it’s not down to the endless amounts of maintenance going on to “improve the line,” it’s a chain of delays caused by one driver nipping out for a sandwich.  It’s usually a single leaf or fugitive hopping on the tracks — two equally dangerous events in the eyes of the rail service — but after seeing a bunch of Labradors chilling at the station the other week, our fields of sheep causing a ruckus is probably more common out in the country than I think.

2. Seagulls want me sandwich.

Step into the Wild Area and you’ll see flocks of Wingulls circling the fields of tall grass. Back in Blighty, when you’re not pushing through a flock of pigeons to get to McDonald’s, you’re dodging seagulls in the hopes they won’t swoop down and steal your Big Mac. Since the U.K. is so geographically small, you’re almost always close enough to the coast for the devil birds to come down looking for a bite to eat — be that your sandwich or your whole, human arm.

With reports of them getting bold and strong enough to steal small dogs at this point, seagulls are like a swarming brood of dragons constantly circling over us, waiting until we’re ripe for the picking. Wingull aren’t super aggressive right now, but that’s where their real-life counterparts tricked us. They want that pack of sausages Joe just gave you and they’ll tear your limbs off to get them.

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3. Selling everything for some new trainers.

The British youth love trainers. They’re synonymous with our mouthy, rude street kids. The right pair of trainers is a status symbol not unlike a luxury sports car or phone. When they’re not being robbed from your local JD Sports, kids are off fencing their own possessions to impress their mates with a new pair of Nike Air Max 90s.

It’s something Pokemon actually manages to capture really well. The nearby PokeMart will buy just about anything you find on the floor. And with a boutique in every town selling mountains of trendy clothes, it’s easy to empty your bag on the counter in exchange for a cool new look. There’s no room for sick Pokemon here — just a sick new outfit.

Galar – A Great British Utopia?

There’s a million other ways Galar does and does not feel like the place I’ve reluctantly called home for more than two decades now. Like where are all the pies and pasties? And what’s with the friendly open-door policy on every house, anyway? Haven’t these people seen those muscular Machoke hunting folk for sport?

But for the minor cultural shortcomings, Galar feels like a Blighty not crippled by the implications of class-based poverty. People are polite, friendly, and not trying to sell you weed or a new broadband service on every corner. It’s clean, inviting, and the kind of place Britain could be if we weren’t at each other’s throats every waking hour of the day. I like it there.