Several studies have shown that South Asian neonates have a characteristic thin–fat insulin-resistant phenotype. The aim of our study was to determine whether this phenotype is also present in South Asians who have migrated to a Western country (the Netherlands). South Asian and white Dutch pregnant women were included in our study. After delivery, cord blood was collected and neonatal anthropometry was measured within 72 h. Compared with white Dutch mothers, South Asian mothers were younger (28.5 v. 32.2 years, P<0.001) and had a higher prepregnancy body mass index (25.1 v. 23.0, P=0.001). Gestational age at delivery was on average 4 days shorter in South Asians (274.9 v. 278.8, P=0.001). To compare the two groups of neonates, we calculated sex- and gestation-specific s.d. scores using the values for mean and s.d. obtained from the white Dutch subjects as a reference. All measurements were smaller in South Asian neonates, except for those of the skinfolds. The largest difference was found in abdominal circumference (s.d. score 1.39, 95% CI −1.76 to −1.01). Triceps and subscapular skinfolds were similar in both groups (triceps s.d. score −0.34, 95% CI −0.88 to +0.20 and subscapular s.d. score −0.03, 95% CI −0.31 to +0.25). South Asian neonates had higher cord plasma levels of triglycerides (0.40 v. 0.36, P=0.614), glucose (5.4 v. 4.8, P=0.079) and insulin (6.3 v. 4.0, P=0.051). However, these differences were not statistically significant. After adjustment for birth weight, the difference in insulin became statistically significant (P=0.001). We therefore conclude that the thin–fat insulin-resistant phenotype is also present in South Asian neonates in the Netherlands.