During my travels to Korat and Bangkok, Thailand in the late 90’s, at many bazaars, one would hear stall owners saying ’Same same’ in their local accent to customers, in the bid to convey that their products were similar in quality but cheaper than the next stall’s.

As years went by, this would become iconic and the ‘Same same’ phrase started appearing on Tshirts and other products. Not long after, someone started tagging the words ‘But Different’ to it, and so became ‘Same Same, But different’. I believe this was meant to be a cheeky response to the shop owners, saying that surely there were some differences. But I think this goes deeper when applied to humanity and cultures. On the positive side, it implies that although we are all humans, we are not identical but unique individuals. However, seen negatively, this emphasizes our differences and separates us, and it needn’t be.

Let’s twist the phrase around, and it makes a big difference – ‘Different, but Same Same’ – that although we are different, there’s so much that are similar among us, in all of the happiness, dullness, sadness, and suffering we encounter. In fact, I believe our differences are superficial but our sameness are fundamental.

“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
– John F Kennedy

“Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”
– Henri Nouwen

Hopefully our same-ness will surprise, interest, shock, awe, tickle or even bring us to tears.

“I came across humanity in Istanbul, and all I know about life comes from Istanbul, and definitely, I am writing about Istanbul. I also love the city because I live there, it has formed me, and it’s me. Of course it is natural. If somebody lived all his life in Delhi, he will write about Delhi.”
– Orhan Pamuk

We need one another to reveal our own humanity. Same same but different but same same!

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