Purpose - The purpose of this study is to explore how customers from different cultures develop trust with service providers to uncover underlying dimensions of trust development for customers from different cultures. Design/methodology/approach - This study utilizes semi-structured phenomenological depth interviews to explore the role of culture in the development of trust with service providers. Findings - Customers' direct service experiences in their native culture and in the culture where they reside (in this study the USA), as well as recommendations from others appear to be the major determinants of trust. Furthermore, a customer's trust in a recommender seems to transfer over to a service provider. Research limitations/implications - Because all informants were from one foreign culture (Korean), the findings related to primarily this group. Further generalization of these findings should only be made after studies conducted with informants from other foreign cultures. Practical implications - Service organizations need to offer their employees training that emphasizes strategies oriented toward building and maintaining trust with customers from different cultural backgrounds in order to better read customers from different cultural backgrounds and to effectively react to their complaints. Originality/value - The most unique part of trust development for Koreans who have lived in the USA would be the transference process. They seem to trust service providers or service organizations based on the recommendations related to specific service categories. Once trust is established in recommenders, it seems to naturally result in a transference process (e.g. trust transference from service provider to service organization).