What is culturally informed psychiatry? What does it mean, and why is it important? These questions are discussed with a focus on the cultural aspects of the clinical encounter. The DSM-5 Outline for Cultural Formulation was developed as a method of assessing the cultural factors affecting the clinical encounter. It calls for the assessment of the cultural features of the relationship between the patient and the clinician; however, there is a lack of debate about what this means in practice. Clinicians run the risk of withdrawal rather than cultural understanding when facing patients with different cultural backgrounds. Using ethnographic material from anthropological fieldwork, I suggest that the encounter with cultural differences could be a useful point of departure for the clinician to develop cultural understanding. It is argued that recognising the experiences of differences is crucial in strengthening transcultural communication and preventing misdiagnosis in the clinician–patient encounter.