Dubai-based Burkhard Wolter is a celebrity in his own right. Guests at the hotel where he works want to be photographed with him. A tailor in Deira has put his poster on the wall. When he travels, people flock to him. At Tiananmen Square in Beijing, locals run after him, going click, click, click. And at Santa Lucia in the Caribbean, you will still find his picture pinned near the Customs Office some 20 years since his last visit.
Reason: Wolter is a seven-foot “giant”. At a recent interview with a broadcast channel, the host stood on a chair to get face to face with him.
People forget names and faces, but not your height. In fact, at this stage in my career it is helping me a lot
“I am used to these things,” said Wolter who has an older brother two inches taller than him at home in Germany.
“People forget names and faces, but not your height. In fact, at this stage in my career it is helping me a lot,” said the 44-year-old who works as general manager at Kempinski Hotel & Residences at Palm Jumeirah. “In any conversation it’s an icebreaker. It’s a great kick-off point when you want to connect with a guest.”
Coming from the food and beverage background, he said guests are more interested in what he eats than what’s on the menu.
His sense of humour is at the fore when he talks about other fringe benefits of being tall. Recently, when he visited the Ferrari Park in Abu Dhabi, he was given a 50 per cent refund on the Dh400 ticket he had bought because he was too tall for five of the 10 rides. And finding a table in a packed restaurant is not an issue if you were to go with him, because they will always make room for the “big shot”.
On flights, Wolter said he is sometimes upgraded to business class because his legs are too long for economy seats or his arms are too long for the comfort of his fellow passeners.
With a twinkle in his eyes, he said he could always make an extra buck by lending his shoulder for a “top view” at a concert, just as he could put his oversized clothes to good use if he wanted. “You know, recycling old shoes to get leather jackets made for smaller people? Or propping my jacket on a pole to double up as a tent?”
But there’s also a downside. He said getting the right clothes is a challenge. He is lean, wears a 19 cm collar and fits into shoe size 15. “I have to buy stuff online from stores in the West or get them tailormade. Not many places cater to those like me. That’s discrimination,” he said.
On a more serious note, he said some people found him intimidating because he was “a big guy with a deep voice”. There have also been occasions when colleagues have found it necessary to prove themselves against the “big guy”.
On a daily basis, he said he has no hassle walking around, trying to avoid knocking his head against a door frame or finding the right furniture. Of course, there are the stares and giggles that he must contend with on the streets or in the elevator, but he’s just learnt to live with them. Just as his wife, who comes up to his shoulder, has also gotten used to the attention.