Although irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is common worldwide, there is uncertainty regarding similarities and differences in geographical regions and cultural groups. For example, are Western diagnostic criteria applicable to other groups? The interaction between culture and health can impact quality of care and health outcomes and, in research, cause methodological shortcomings that lead to bias and inappropriate interpretations of research Results. Two central questions are: do physicians have the cross-cultural competence to effect a participatory model of care; and do we have sufficient knowledge and experience in conducting multinational, cross-cultural research? The Rome Foundation and the World Gastroenterology Organisation convened a symposium to foster interest in the global aspects of IBS, foster cross-cultural competence, improve multinational IBS research, foster international networks for IBS research, increase awareness of culture's impact on patient care and research in the functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs), address cross-cultural issues in multinational clinical drug trials, and facilitate the development of patient-reported outcome measures for FGID research across cultures. This review summarizes key points and messages.