BALMEDIE, Scotland—Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is well-known in this serene coastal section of Scotland, where shimmering golden sand dunes meet the ice-blue North Sea and people play on his golf course. He’s known in the Himalayas, too, far from any sign with his name on it. And in the Middle East, Africa and beyond.
His is clearly a recognized name worldwide, which is not to say it’s a beloved one.
In Balmedie, the real estate mogul is both praised and blamed for building a deluxe international golf course in a previously pristine spot. Some believe he’s delivered the jobs and benefits he promised; others think American voters should beware a fast-talking scoundrel.
“He is a strange fish,” said Susan Munro, a shop worker who has lived on land adjacent to the new Trump resort for more than 35 years. “If he doesn’t get his own way, he just loses it.” As she sees it, “He would be a disaster for everyone.”
In diverse parts of the world, many see the ascendant Trump candidacy with a mixture of bemusement, astonishment and alarm. It’s striking how many people know of him at all.
In the Himalayan hill town of Dharamsala, Tibetan Buddhist monk Tenzin Damchoe, 39, said Trump is “making a lot of noise to be noticed.” Trump “must remember that the U.S. does not belong to white people, they themselves were once immigrants,” he said.
In the northern India city of Lucknow, Sharmila Krishna, 40, praised Trump for bringing life and color to an otherwise dim campaign. “Political experience is not mandatory to run a country,” she said. “Barack Obama has not done anything great.”
Many opinion-leaders and ordinary people are, though, concerned about a political novice as U.S. president.
It is the bluster and the “make America great again” talk that has shaped this view. Also, his swagger from “The Apprentice” TV show, the easy-to-caricature hairstyle and his inflammatory comments, spread worldwide, about immigrants.
Meantime he’s done little to reach out to the rest of the world.
In South Africa, for example, Trump angered many with a series of harsh tweets, including one during Nelson Mandela’s 2013 funeral service in which he called the country “a crime ridden mess that is just waiting to explode.”
J. Brooks Spector, a retired U.S. diplomat who writes a column on American politics for The Daily Maverick, a South African news and opinion site, said Trump confirms the stereotypical view of Americans as loud, boisterous and arrogant.
Pearl Pillay, a policy researcher who spent time in the United States as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, said U.S. diplomacy would “crash and burn” if he takes power.
Trump’s self-presentation as a political renegade is, however, getting a sympathetic hearing from some people. And he seems to have support among Russia’s emerging financial elite, many of whom are billionaires themselves.
Russian tycoon Aras Agalarov told the Russian press he was impressed with Trump when he met him in Moscow two years ago during the Miss Universe beauty pageant. “He said a lot of good things about our country, our culture, our people,” Agalarov said.
In India, many younger people in the high-tech center of Bangalore take a dim view of Trump’s candidacy, in part because he is perceived by some as racist.
“Any attempt to ‘Make America Great’ will require somebody with an agenda that will include people of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds,” said Shreya Shetty, a 29-year-old engineer.
Namratha Srirangapatna, a 33-year-old interior designer, said Trump is a “lightweight who believes his money can get him the presidency. God help America.”
It is Mexico that has borne the brunt of Trump’s rhetoric. He has characterized Mexican immigrants crossing into the U.S. illegally as “rapists” and “criminals,” and pledged to build a “beautiful” wall on the Mexican border to keep them out.
Some Mexicans have reacted with anger, others shrug him off.
“Don’t take him so seriously, for God’s sake, we’re Mexicans, we make fun of death,” said Jorge Suarez, whose company has released a new video game in which players can throw soccer balls, cactus leaves and tequila bottles at a cartoon image of Trump.
Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Miguel Basanez, told Mexicans that Trump is simply playing politics during the primary campaign.
“He knows very well that what he is saying is false,” the ambassador said. “He knows very well he will apologize to Mexicans.”
That would be one side of Trump that few if any have seen — one who says “sorry.”