Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked for a company that did business with South Korea. In my job, I spent a lot of time on the phone to the Korean office in Seoul. I spoke daily to the office manager and his two secretaries and got to know them quite well. Then one day I got the chance to fly out to Seoul for two weeks on a sales visit. I was very excited, and it seemed that I wasn’t the only one.
The office manager met me at the airport and drove me to my hotel. ‘The girls in the office are really looking forward to meeting you, Steve,’ he told me in the car, giving me a sly wink.
‘Really?’ I said.
‘Yes,’ he assured me. ‘In fact, do you mind if we stop by the office on the way so I can introduce you?’
‘OK,’ I said. After all, it would be nice to meet Miss Kim and Miss Lee, who existed for me only as disembodied voices on the end of the phone line.
‘It’s your accent, you see,’ the manager continued. ‘They think you sound exactly like James Bond.’
‘Oh, um, OK.’
He drove me across town to the office and introduced me to Miss Kim and Miss Lee, two young, pretty Korean women. I said hello and shook their hands politely. They giggled.
‘What do you think?’ the manager asked them.
They giggled again.
‘He doesn’t look like James Bond,’ said Miss Kim at last, in a disappointed voice. Or was it Miss Lee? By then, I no longer cared. A young man’s confidence had been cruelly shattered.