Useless, but telling Chinese words

I had my first Chinese lesson tonight.  There is a lot to take in, and I am not really good at memorization.  One of the things that confused me right away is the words for siblings.  Rather than just brother and sister, there is a separate word to indicate if they are older or younger:

didi younger brother
gege older brother
meimei younger sister
jiejie older sister

This is telling and indicates just how much seniority in the family matters.

In practice though, I have found talking about siblings is a fruitless conversation topic, because all my coworkers have no siblings.  The family plan limits parents to a single child.  This is only now starting to loosen.  For example if both wife and husband come from families with only one child, then they can have two kids.  Or if you have three years salary laying around, you can buy rights to have a second kid.

In the meantime, memorizing these four words is low on my priority list.

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