Is het een Cadeautje?

If you’ve ever been shopping anywhere in The Netherlands you have probably been asked the question, “Is het een cadeautje?” It’s a common question, especially during the months leading up to Sinterklaas and Christmas. In fact, I hear it so often that I sometimes expect the checkout girl to ask me it as I do my weekly food shopping.

“Is deze melk een cadeautje?”
“Ya, als cadeautje alsjeblieft.”

If I were to translate “Is het een cadeautje,” word for word it basically means, “Is it a gift?”. However, I have learned that it is a mistake to take this question at face value or to even assume that it is the question that is really being asked. It is not a question asked out of idle curiosity about your gift shopping habits. It has a double meaning, a silent question that is never asked but always understood (by the Dutch at least). “Is het een cadeautje?” really means, “Would you like this wrapped?”

Once you are aware of this double meaning it probably sounds pretty easy to deal with the situation. However, the difference between the question that is asked and the question that is meant creates some problems.

Is het een cadeautje voor uzelf?

Imagine that you are buying something for yourself and when you approach the counter to pay for it you are asked the question, “is het een cadeautje?” You now have two options:

1) You can say no and admit that the My Little Pony action figure that you just bought is actually for yourself and it does not need wrapping or…

2) You let them wrap it anyway and have your own private gift unwrapping moment at home later.

Is het een cadeautje voor iemand anders?

It does not get any easier when you are buying a gift for someone else either, especially if you want to wrap it in your own fancy wrapping paper (that compliments the Christmas tree decorations so well). This time when they ask, “is het een cadeautje?” you now have three options:

1) You could keep it simple, lie a little and say no just so that they will leave it unwrapped, thus making it easier for you to wrap it later. However, this will now lead to them believing that the ‘Little Princess Tea Party Play Set’ you just bought is for yourself.

2) Alternatively, you could be honest, tell them it is a gift but that you would like them to leave it unwrapped so that can wrap it yourself later. However, this response first leads to a moment of confusion as they automatically reach for the wrapping paper upon hearing the word, “yes,” and then hurt feelings by what they believe is an insult to their gift wrapping skills.

3) Finally, it might just be easier to let them wrap it so that you can unwrap and re-wrap it later. However, while doing this you might discover that their gift wrapping skills were in fact better than yours all along and never be able to look them in the eye again.

It is a dilemma that never gets any easier.

Is het een cadeautje van ons winkle?

Sometimes when picking the last option you might be lucky and discover that the wrapping paper the shop is using is actually quite nice. Maybe you don’t have to worry about re-wrapping it after all. Unfortunately they then place a great big sticker on the freshly wrapped gift, clearly advertising the shop’s name and showing everyone that you obviously did not bother to wrap the gift yourself.

If you are anything like me you might try to carefully peel the sticker off as soon as you exit the shop. This is probably why they make sure they press it on so hard. It’s impossible to get it off without ripping the paper.

If you’re quick enough you might just be able to stop them stamping it on but be prepared for some annoyed looks. Refusing the sticker is akin to refusing to acknowledge the selfless free gift wrapping service the shop provides (and that you just took advantage of). A better solution might be to put a bigger sticker of your own over their sticker.

Is het een cadeautje?

Either way, answering the question, “is het een cadeautje?” is not as easy as it might first seem. It’s possible that there is no correct answer. The best option is whatever you are most comfortable with doing… or shopping online. That way you avoid the question all together.

23 responses to “Is het een Cadeautje?”

  1. Joke says:

    I love saying “Yes, it is!” when I buy something for myself except when I buy a book. Then I usually answer: “No, thank you, I will devour this one myself”.

    • Invader Stu says:

      Books always seem to be one of the acceptable ones where you can say, “No! This is for myself,” and they will ok with that… Unless it’s a ‘My First ABC’ book or something like that I guess.

  2. Oh, man. It’s very similar in France with the question “C’est pour offrir?” [Is it to offer (as a gift?)]

    A couple of years ago when I was putting together the accessories for my Doctor Who Halloween costume, I walked into a men’s wear shop to purchase a red tie. When the male sales clerk asked if the tie was a gift, I felt that I couldn’t answer truthfully lest he were led to believe that I was a cross-dresser.

    I went home with a red silk tie to unwrap at home. I also felt strangely guilty for having made him waste his beautiful wrapping skills on such a calumny. :P

    • Invader Stu says:

      It’s ok. The master can be a woman now so there is nothing wrong with you telling him you are cross dressing as the doctor.

      (That probably seemed like a very weird sentence to anyone who does not watch DDoctor Who)

      • Yes, indeed.

        And, DUDE, SPOILERS! You should put up a warning or something. :P

        Ironically enough, today I inadvertently discovered the middle ground to the wrapping debacle: I went to purchase a gift for a friend of mine. After going through a month declining offers for people to wrap gifts, I was finally, without any qualms or remorse, ready to say “C’est pour offrir.”

        The salesclerk merely stuck the wrapping paper and ribbons in my bag so I could wrap the gift myself at home. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting that to have happened, especially since I am the least dexterous at wrapping…

  3. Antoine Borg says:

    My wrapping skills leave *a lot* to be desired, so I would agree that if I tried to unwrap and re-wrap something, it would just be a shame. I’ve been known to use a large sheet of wrapping paper to try to wrap a DVD and I still had to use a sticker and bow to hide a corner and miss.

    I wish I could just leave the items in a bag and not wrap them but my family is a group of expert gift-wrappers. (Maybe they’re Dutch … hmm … )

    My mother for example will carefully wrap any gift as exquisitely as possible. If the item includes batteries, she’ll wrap each individual volt too.

    I wish our shops took some lessons from the Dutch … sigh …

    • Invader Stu says:

      My mother likes to use as much sellotape as possible when she wraps gifts. Sometimes I think she is trying to keep people out so that they can only look at the wrapped gift.

  4. Anastasia Dudina says:

    I usually say “Ja!” except for the moments when the shop personnel is really slow and the line of people behind me is really long. Or when the wrapping paper is really ugly :) BTW, while you are shopping online (for example at they also ask is the gift should be wrapped, and charge 0.99 EUR extra if you say yes. Well enough reason to refuse :)

  5. Alison says:

    I generally just say yes, because I’ve run out of wrapping paper and usually it actually is just for me and I like the chance to unwrap something, since we don’t really bother with gift-giving at Christmas.

  6. I always say “Yes”. Even when I am buying shaving foam (that’s a bit of exaggeration but you get the point). I find it really nice that they wrap it nicely enough and with such warmth. Everybody loves unwrapping and with my 6 yr old daughter its fun to see her emotions when she unwraps a shampoo or shaving foam.

  7. Ace CB says:

    I always manage to confuse the poor person at the counter by my obvious consideration of the answer… But it’s fun to see them begin in slow motion in case they need to stop abruptly

  8. Joan Mchardy says:

    I love the free wrapping. In Venray on koopzondag just in case you didn’t get something wrapped in store, there is an inpakwinkel where as they advertise ‘kunt u uw kerstcadeaus mooi en gratis laten inpakken’ Pity I didn’t know that before I went and bought a load of wrapping paper to ‘do it myself’.

    • Lizanne says:

      I asked the sales cashier at the V&D if she could wrap my gift or if I should go to the inpakbalie they had set up, thus hoping to avoid her thinking that the panda-muts I just bought was for me.

  9. Just answer “Nee hoor” or “Het hoeft niet ingepakt” when you don’t want it wrapped.
    Nobody will think you buy everything for yourself ;)

    • Roy says:

      Dit is het goede antwoord. Zeg gewoon “Nee, bedankt”. Zoals je zelf al zegt, eigenlijk vragen ze “wil je dat ik het inpak?”. Daarom kan je ook gewoon “Bedankt” zeggen.

  10. vallypee says:

    Oh goodness, yes. You think you’re so smart at figuring out that it’s a question about wrapping and not just curiosity, but then the implications that brings. Loved this, Stu! And your last post about being Stuart Piet!! Happy Christmas!!

  11. Sadie says:

    What does it matter if the paper is not nice or it has a shop sticker on it? It saves time and money! ;-)
    (I am really becoming Dutch)

  12. Petra says:

    It is not something to be ashamed of if you let the shop wrap the gift. Most shops have a training moment on giftwrapping. I work at a small store. I know wich shops are not allowed to wrap my gifts, if i can do it better myself i will say I have to add something, I will wrap it at home.
    And the storesticker on the gift is something good in my family. I remember this mysterygift. It was a box with a certain paper around it, it was passed unopened for three years. It turnen out to be candy. The date had expired before the first time it was giften. Storestickers mean it is new and special for you… It also means the shop will try harder because their name is on it.

  13. Rik Verdonschot says:

    The girl behind the counter at a drugstore once asked me “Is het een kadootje?” when I bought a box of condoms. It was a force of habit thing (at least I hope she wasn’t implying they had to be a gift, since I could have no possible use dor concoms) and she was really ashamed…but I still regret not saying yes and having her wrap it. :-)

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