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I remember having dinner in Taiwan at a very nice restaurant with one of my students and her father. I had absolutely no idea until the next morning when I showed his business card to colleagues at work that he was the Taiwanese equivalent of Donald Trump.
Thanks to your comment, I’m now remembering how good I became at distinguishing between people who are true VIPs from the “I ams.” That’s when I was living in Japan as a corporate wife, and we had to host many big business types. The “I ams” were the ones who were climbing the ladder but hadn’t quite made it (perhaps never would) so would always start their sentences with “I am” or “I did” or “I met.” The really important people were usually much easier to converse with because they didn’t need to impress anyone (they’d already made it to the top) so could even take an interest in the person they were talking to.
In other words, your student’s father may have come across as nothing special because he’s already considered so special, if that makes sense.
p.s. But if you had dinner with Donald Trump and didn’t seem to know who he was, I’m sure he would have let you know — for a start, by refusing to shake your hand (he’s notoriously fearful of germs). For some reason, American big whigs are the exception. Even those who reach the top are terribly insecure and can’t laugh at themselves. Give me a British VIP over an American one any day!
I knew he was wealthy enough to own the skyscraper where we were having dinner, but he came across as just a nice guy. Your comment about how to tell the VIPS from the “I ams” makes perfect sense! When I met Queen Noor of Jordan at a school one of her children attended, she was clearly not an “I am” – much less high maintenance than many of the other parents there!