Health promotion researchers must consider the ethics of their research, and are usually required to abide by a set of ethical requirements stipulated by governing bodies (such as the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council) and human research ethics committees (HRECs). These requirements address both deontological (rule-based) and consequence-based issues. However, at times there can be a disconnect between the requirements of deontological issues and the cultural sensitivity required when research is set in cultural contexts and settings etic to the HREC. This poses a challenge for health promotion researchers who must negotiate between meeting both the requirements of the HREC and the needs of the community with whom the research is being conducted. Drawing on two case studies, this paper discusses examples from cross-cultural health promotion research in Australian and international settings where disconnect arose and negotiation was required to appropriately meet the needs of all parties. The examples relate to issues of participant recruitment and informed consent, participants under the Australian legal age of consent, participant withdrawal when this seemingly occurs in an ad hoc rather than a formal manner and reciprocity. Although these approaches are context specific, they highlight issues for consideration to advance more culturally appropriate practice in research ethics and suggest ways a stronger anthropological lens can be applied to research ethics to overcome these challenges.