Aim: This study explored the health beliefs, concerns and expectations of primary care patients presenting with abdominal pain, headache and chest pain. Methods: Over a 6-week period, 107 adult patients with symptoms of pain were interviewed using a semistructured questionnaire. Results: The presenting symptoms of these patients were: abdominal pain, 41; headache, 35; and chest pain, 31. Females made up 53.3%; the ethnic groups were Malay (35.5%), Chinese (18.7%) and Indian (45.8%); and 71.8% of the patients had primary or secondary education. The patients' attributions of their symptoms were predominantly non-medical in all three ethnic groups. The non-medical causes mentioned include food, trauma, stress, weather changes and winds ('angin'). Only two fifths of the patients mentioned disease-specific concerns. Three quarters of these patients expected either medications or wanted the doctor to look for serious causes. Very few patients specifically wanted referral or special tests. Conclusions: The patients in the study had health beliefs and concerns, in view of their non-medical focus, that was at variance with those of the health care providers. However, having decided to consult the health clinic, they were mainly looking for symptomatic relief or evaluation for serious pathology.