Corruption is a phenomenon that has received global attention from academics, policy makers and international donors. Corruption may be defined as the abuse of power for private gain. Activities include bribery, extortion, rent-seeking behaviour, cronyism, patronage, nepotism, embezzlement, graft and engagement with criminal enterprises. However, patronage, nepotism and gift giving are frequently viewed in many Asian and African cultures as acceptable practices that promote efficiency and smooth relationships. This article examines these practices in contexts including Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, China and South Asia, discusses various rationales for these practices, and seeks to understand how these practices can be reconciled with international efforts to combat corruption. This article focuses on the implications with regard to the Anticorruption Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (APUNCAC) and the proposal to establish a body of United Nations (UN) inspectors to investigate charges of corruption and refer cases to dedicated domestic anticorruption courts. This article suggests that UN inspectors and international norms against corruption are not incompatible with traditional cultural practices. This article draws upon the experiences of Hong Kong and Singapore, where corruption was endemic, to demonstrate that local cultural norms can be rapidly changed when independent inspectors are established and receive support from institutions that are free from manipulation by domestic authorities.