A friend of mine asked what "same same but different" meant. The context was in an essay called Same-same, but different on the Japan Times website:
One Indochinese term we all learned was the saying "Same-same, but different." It might just look like four words that contradict each other, but this one phrase perfectly described our experiences. Each of the countries we visited would use the same herbs in different ways, or have ways of bargaining that were similar, yet different. Even among our group, we all spoke English, but in many different ways.
After my tour, I carried on to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan on my own. The idea of "same-same, but different" continued. Each of these Asian countries had similar foods, languages and writing, but all had put their own unique twist on it.
Is it derived from Tinglish, a broken form of English from Thailand?
same same but different (seems similar but different in some ways)