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Metro-Specific Underworld

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Criminal underworlds have ethnic backgrounds specific to the locale of the setting.

Also see Generic Ethnic Crime Gang for the Honorable Mentions - gangs not pervasive enough to have their own tropes yet.


  • If the city has a Chinatown, expect the Triads and the Tongs to show up at your door.
  • If the city is Miami, you should learn the word "cartel" or you will catch a bullet. You might see the occasional Italian given that the Mafia has operations in Florida.
  • New Jersey and New York? Parla italiano o muori.
    • Unless it's The Roaring '20s, in which case Yiddish will come in handy (although it can't entirely replace Italian), or the 1850s-60s, when, unless you can trace your ancestry to the Mayflower, it would be advisable to learn Irish.
    • Even then, you'd be better advised to spruce up your Russian alongside your Yiddish before going anywhere near the vicinity of Brighton Beach.
    • Additionally, there are parts of town where you better be down to speak that Ebonics. Harlem, certain parts of Brooklyn, and Newark especially. Spanish will come in handy in other parts of the same areas, although a lot of the time the Spanish speakers will be civilians. In the 1950s-70s, you will likely hear Italian especially if you lived in East Harlem (which is now a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood).
    • You'll sometimes hear Greek especially in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens.
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  • Chicago, Illinois: You can speak Italian or Irish. Just don't let the Yiddish guys hear you, unless you have a deal with the Italians. Don't forget to watch out for the Polish folks, as well: they own the town. And you can find a lot of Ebonics-speaking Gangbangers in the South Side. Or Spanish for that matter.
  • Los Angeles, California: Speak Spanish, and learn the difference between "barrio" and "narco". In certain parts of the city and in the surrounding countryside, men on motorcycles are not your friends. You will also need Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian and Vietnamese, too, and Ebonics, plus others you'd never considered (i.e. Armenian). You know, really, you should just keep quiet.
  • San Francisco, California: Speak Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Ebonics, lest you get your head blown off. In the old days, you'll have heard Italian along the way.
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  • Baltimore, Maryland: Ebonics and Greek, to a lesser extent. Italian used to be spoken in this city but the local Mafia presence is now non-existent.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Ebonics, Italian, Irish, and the occasional Greek. Remember how "they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night"? That's the Mafia.
    • Speaking of that song: Atlantic City, New Jersey: Ebonics in the hood, Philly Italian historically and near the casinos.
  • Providence, Rhode Island: Irish and Italian.
  • Boston, Massachusetts: Mostly Irish, with the occasional Italian or Ebonics thrown in for flavor. In reality, knowing French, Portuguese, and/or Spanish doesn't hurt either, due to the Haitian, Cape Verdean, Brazilian, and Colombian communities in the city, though most of them are quite civil.
  • Detroit, Michigan: Mostly Ebonics, but you'll hear snatches of very menacing Italian and Greek. If you plan on hanging in Highland Park, learn Hmong. The ones speaking Arabic (Chaldeans, mostly) and Armenian look menacing, but are completely aboveboard and harmless unless you plan on knocking over their store/restaurant.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: Historically Italian, nowadays it's Ebonics.
  • Cleveland, Ohio: A chaotic mixture of Irish and Italian especially in the 70s.
  • Kansas City, Missouri: Used to be a rather violent boiling pot of Italian, Irish, Yiddish, and Ebonics. Once the home of Tom Pendergast, a notoriously Corrupt Politician.
  • In almost any mid-sized Northeastern or Midwestern city, Italian is the lingua franca for crime syndicates.
  • Though rarely shown in media portrayals, Hawai'i has an underworld reflective of its diversity. Yakuza, Triads and especially Tongs are prevalent, and there are also many factions of Polynesian ethnicities such as Native Hawaiians, Samoans, and Tongans. Deliberately averted in the second volume of Hawaiian Dick, which instead focuses on a generic mob war between mainland Mafia and Irish factions.
  • If you live near the border, you better watch out for The Cartel or Ruthless Foreign Gangsters that speak Spanish.
  • The rural United States in general will feature Outlaw Bikers (see the international section below), Hillbilly Moonshiners (though the latter trope is gradually dying out) and the occasional Southern-style mobster. Their more respectable counterpart (and sometimes competitor) will be a Corrupt Hick (potentially a Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit), who will typically hold a respectable position in society (as sheriff, mayor, judge, county commissioner, or simply the richest businessman in the area) that he exploits shamelessly to run all manner of rackets.
  • Stories set in American Prisons may likely portray the Aryan Brotherhood or other similar Neo-Nazi/white-supremacist gangs. Despite making up less than 1% of the US prison population, they're responsible for almost a quarter of murders there, so expect them to portrayed as very fearsome antagonists towards any unlucky inmates who cross paths with them. Occasionally, Neo-Nazi gangsters might be found outside of prison, and are not any less ruthless.

Non-American or International

  • The UK has the inescapable London Gangster, as well as The Yardies to add some ethnic flavour. In older works, The Irish Mob and Kosher Nostra may make an appearance. In newer ones, it'll be The Mafiya, or its counterparts from other Eastern European countries such as Serbia or Albania.
  • France has several milieux, historically dominated by the Corsican Mob (which Anglo-Americans named Union Corse), particularly in Marseille. More recent works will feature various ethnic gangs from the banlieues on the outskirts of big cities, which have gradually eclipsed the old Corsican milieu, and will typically be either North African (especially in Marseille and other Mediterranean cities) or Eastern European (especially in Paris). And then there are the Belgian gangs in the North who specialize in heists.
  • Italy, of course, has the Mafia. The terminology will vary from place to place, however: only in Sicily is organized crime properly referred to as "the Mafia." The Neapolitan version is called the Camorra, which will be portrayed as more refined and concerned with showing a respectable face, though no less cutthroat. The Calabrian version is called the Ndrangheta, considered more rural, crude, and unsophisticated, but also the most terrifyingly efficient mob in the country, and, arguably, the continent.
  • Ireland naturally has The Irish Mob. They've only been present on the Emerald Isle since the 60s unlike their American counterparts but nevertheless, they are still rather prominent in the country.
  • Roguish Romani, at least stereotypically, will feature across Europe in general, though the farther east the setting, the likelier they are to appear.
  • In more recent decades, Muslim immigrant gangs may also make an appearance throughout Europe (though mainly in the west). Broadly speaking, they're likely to be Turkish in Germany, North African (Algerian/Moroccan/Tunisian) in France, and South Asian (Pakistani/Bangladeshi) in the UK.
  • Russia is well-known for its own native Mafiya. For ethnic variety, said Mafiya may consist of Tatars, Ukrainians, Chechens, Jews, and other prominent minorities of Russia. Similar Mafiya groups also exist throughout the rest of the former Soviet Union too, and are quite ethnically diverse.
  • Obviously enough, Chinese gangs like The Triads and the Tongs operate mostly in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and several other countries (mostly in Southeast Asia) which have a large enough Chinese diaspora. While criminal gangs do exist in Mainland China, they're nowhere near as powerful as their counterparts in other places, due to the Communist government cracking down on Triad-style secret societies ever since they took power in 1949.
  • Japan has the infamous Yakuza. There are also the (far less notorious) Japanese Delinquents and the more obscure color gangs (essentially Japanese-flavored Gangbangers).
  • Many Latin American nations will have The Cartel, but most especially Colombia (particularly in works set in The '80s) and Mexico (The '90s and more recently). In older works set between The Wild West and The Mexican Revolution, Mexico will have Banditos; other Latin American nations may as well, whether or not it's historically accurate.
  • Brazil has a Portuguese-flavored version of the Gangbangers who can be found in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro and a couple of other cities.
  • Although rarely depicted in fiction outside of Prohibition, Canada has its own homegrown criminal underworld comprised of Italians, Irish, and Indians as well as occasionally the likes of the Chinese, French, and Ebonics. If you do find the Mafia in the Great White North, they are commonly found in Ontario or Quebec.
  • Israel unsurprisingly has the Kosher Nostra, given its large Jewish majority; and due to having a large community of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, The Mafiya also has a significant presence in the Israeli criminal underworld. You'll hear them speaking Hebrew or Russian as opposed to Yiddish in this country. Sometimes, Israeli/Palestinian Arabs will also be seen as members of various criminal gangs and syndicates.
  • India has a rather distinct history of organized crime. Contemporary works will often feature gangsters based on the infamous D-Company, while period pieces often feature bandits like the Dacoits or Thuggees.
  • Eastern Europe has its fair share of gangsters involved in human trafficking and other criminal operations. If you encounter them, you better speak Serbian or Albanian just to avoid trouble. You might even hear Romanian, Bulgarian and Montenegrin if you go deep into the former Eastern Bloc.
  • Turkey has a localized version of the Mafia which is every bit as ruthless as their Eastern European counterparts.
  • Biker gangs are almost always portrayed in Western United States settings, especially in rural areas. However in real life, outlaw motorcycle clubs are active all over the USA, Canada, Europe, much of Asia, and especially Australia and New Zealand.


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