The aim of this study was to explore and compare explanatory models (EMs) of hypertension in native-Dutch, first-generation Ghanaian and African-Surinamese (Surinamese) hypertensives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Through semi-structured interviews, we elicited accounts of the nature, causes and consequences of hypertension in a purposive sample of 46 patients (aged 35-65 years, treated for hypertension in general practice >1 year). All three groups had difficulty in describing hypertension. All groups mentioned culturally specific nutritional habits as possible causes of hypertension (Dutch liquorice; Ghanaians fufu; Surinamese salty diet). Most respondents, particularly those of Ghanaian and Surinamese background, perceived stress as the main cause of hypertension and experienced symptoms of hypertension. Many Ghanaian and Surinamese respondents attributed hypertension to migration-related factors: changes in diet or climate, stress owing to adaptation to the Dutch society or obligations towards family in their homelands. Many immigrants felt a return to their homeland could cure hypertension and were concerned about the consequences of hypertension. Half of the Dutch and almost all Ghanaian and Surinamese respondents believed uncontrolled hypertension could cause immediate damage. Some Ghanaians expressed reservations sharing their concerns with community members because it might cause social stigma. Few respondents associated hypertension with obesity, even though many were overweight. Confirming findings from UK and US studies, this study reveals that EMs of hypertension in patients from three ethnic groups differ from the common medical perspective. These differences are greater for patients from migrant groups. Our findings can be useful in developing patient-centred hypertension interventions, particularly in new migrant populations.