The authors review the use of seven psychiatric self-rating scales in cross-cultural research and practice and discuss some of the issues that limit their usefulness in cross-cultural settings. It is unclear whether any one scale can accurately assess the presence of psychiatric illness in different cultures because different cultures have specific ways of experiencing and reporting psychiatric disturbances. This limitation may be overcome through the use of culture-specific rating scales, such as the Vietnamese Depression Scale (VDS), whose develop- ment is described here. The authors' work on the VDS suggests that certain biological symptoms of depression may be universal but that psychological symptoms tend to be culturally rooted. The paper includes guidelines for using self-rating scales in cross-cultural psychiatry.