It's like what my parents taught me about marriage: if you marry someone in the hopes of changing her, you’re consigning yourself--and her--to misery. So it is too with cross-cultural friendships and business relationships. Friends can appreciate and value each other. But they don't change for the other party. Two people who are raised half a world away, schooled in, say, Cartesian and Confucianism, and accustomed to dissimilar foods and spices will never—borrowing a statistics phrase— revert to the same mean, not even over a period of years.
Still, I believe that most people, regardless of nationality, are aiming to do the right thing and appreciate it if you try to do the same; in my experience, good intent is a universal concept. I’m not blind, nor naïve, to the fact that different people's definition of “right” might still be world’s apart--and the subject of much disagreement and debate. But I do believe strongly in the universality of trust and friendship. (i.e., relationships solidly continuing even when a business deal collapses). I have had countless people around our dinner table for home-cooked meals, to play with our kids and to enjoy coffee, tea or a post-meal glass of port. The native languages are often different, and my guests’ affinity for my wife’s terrific cooking may not be as strong as my own. But the smiles, appreciativeness and respect are a constant.