The real reason why Asian cities have low crime rates
By Nury Vittachi
Over breakfast with a couple of Germans and an American at a hotel in Macau, I pondered one of the most puzzling East-West mysteries. Crime is linked to poverty, so why do cities in the richer West have more crime than those in the poorer East?
Confucianism? Asian values? Respect for authorities?
Maybe Asian criminals are just too dumb to pull off a decent heist, I thought. This column has several times reported on hapless thieves who break into houses only to drop off their wallets, keys, toolboxes and in one memorable case, a getaway car.
I was still thinking about this puzzle that night when I got back home. Like most Asians, I live with way too many generations of my family in a space that is way too small.
I went to bed at 11 pm. At midnight, just as I was dozing off, my workaholic wife came home noisily and woke me up.
At 2 am, Grandma woke up and turned on all the lights, ready for her usual hearty breakfast of English tea and custard creams. (Our doctor diagnosed Grandma as suffering from “disorientation and general confusion about everything” which worried me as the term perfectly describes my normal state of mind.) I fixed Grandma a snack and sent her back to bed.
At 3 am, Grandma turned on all the lights again, informing me that we should phone the reception desk and tell them to reserve a table for us. I told Grandma that our kitchen does not have a reception desk (“You can’t get the staff these days”) and sent her back to bed.
At 4 am, not one, but two of my children woke up. One needed an urgent visit to the toilet and the other needing comforting after a bad dream.
“Did you dream about a scary monster?” I asked.
“Yes,” she wept. “Mike Myers in The Cat in the Hat.”
I told her that if Mr Myers turned up at our flat, I would drop to all fours and bark to scare him away.
At 5 am, Grandma turned on all the lights for a third time “because we are approaching the harbour and will soon have to disembark”. I told Grandma that the apartment was not weighing anchor here, but would continue its triumphant journey across the seven seas until morning.
At 7 am, I finally achieved a state of deep sleep. Which was when the alarm went off. Time to get up for work.
I’m not asking for sympathy. This action-packed home life is common enough in most over-stuffed multi-generational homes of Asians. But it is probably very different to that of say, Texan families, who I understand typically consist of two rednecks and a goldfish, each of whom have a separate (gun-filled) room, wing, building or ranch.
Now I wouldn’t want you to think that every night chez Vittachi is as disrupted as that one. No sir. Some nights, it’s much worse. Granny and the kids act as a tag-team, taking turns to wake me up at 15-minute intervals. What fun we have!
After arriving at the office, I sent an email to one of my German friends. “I’ve been thinking about it, and I reckon I know why Asians don’t commit more crimes,” I said. “Actually, we’d love to. But we’re just too tired.”