In China, the relationship comes first! - One of my Chinese "Customers"
This was said to me with a straight face by a guy I don't trust. I am betting by the end of the year I will find that he is using some of my company's IP that he doesn't have legal access to.
The purpose of my meeting was to basically warn this guy of the consequence of not dealing straight. He was feeling I was being a "typical American" and coming in discussing business, and that I should "not worry about that legal stuff. We should get to know one another better!" He said this over our third glass of Chinese wine (ugh!).
But the fact of the matter is that no matter how much Chinese wine and meals we have, I don't like the guy. But if he deals straight, I'll do business with him.
There are friends I wouldn't do business with. There are people I do business with that I don't particularly like. Maybe it IS an American thing, but I see friendship and business as two separate worlds. It is great when they overlap, but I don't try to make them match. Each world has different criteria.
That's not to say that spending time with customers and entertaining isn't important. Respect and trust are important to any business relationship, and it is easier to build that rapport away from the office. But that shouldn't be confused with "friendship". And no matter how much I like a guy, I am not going to let him screw my company, and by extension, me.
So maybe I do come in, guns blazing, wanting to discuss business first. But I am traveling the world trying to make my company money, not being Willy Loman trying to be "well liked".