“Same, same but different!”

Appendix  – the Chairman’s Column, October 2021 Newsletter

The phrase “same, same but different is explained by Slumber party holidays as follows.

From street vendors to business people, this phrase is used by anyone who knows even the slightest bit of English in South East Asia. Tourists will giggle with enthusiasm or roll their eyes when they hear this. It all depends on how many times you’ve heard it that day, or how many times someone has tried to sell you a fake Prada bag by saying it’s ;same same, but different’.

This phrase that we all know and love (or hate), is a staple in Thai vernacular to get a simple point across. ‘Same same, but different’ essentially means it’s fundamentally different with the slightest similarity, but who cares? 

Where did this saying originate from, and who said it first? Also, why has it become a part of Thai culture? Let’s take a look at the origin and meaning of ‘same same, but different’ to get to the bottom of these questions. So the next time you’re in Thailand and hear someone say the famous phrase, you’ll know exactly why they’re saying it.


You can hear this saying being used in many Southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, but mostly Thailand. There are many theories as to where the actual phrase came from.

Some say it originated from Vietnam during the Vietnam War where it was used by the US military to communicate with the Vietnamese people. 

Some say it originated from the Thai language itself. This article explains, since there is no difference between singular and plural nouns in the Thai language, in order to express a noun as plural, a noun is sometimes repeated. Which could be the reason why ‘same same’ exists as it as an English variation of the way Thai is spoken (“Tinglish”).