Friday, June 01, 2007

Wrap it up...I'll take it.

Yesterday was our daughter's 8th birthday, and here's a photo of one of the gifts she received: The beauty of this gift is not what's inside (a puzzle)--it's the wrapping.

What's so great about the wrapping? you're probably thinking. Sure, it's gold and sparkly, and topped with a pink bow--just right for an eight-year-old girl who loves all things sparkly and pink.

But the best thing about this gift is the fact that it was gift-wrapped right in the store. For free. All stores do this, not just the outrageously-priced boutiques. No matter how much you spend, or how many hundreds of people are waiting in line behind you, you can always ask for a pachetto regalo--gift-wrapping. And not only that, if you buy a toy that needs batteries, the clerk will open the box, take out the toy, unscrew the battery compartment door, insert the batteries, close the compartment door, make sure the toy works, put the toy back in the box, and gift-wrap it for you.

When I first came to Italy in 1993 as a Kindergarten teacher at the international school here, the school held a student craft fair in December. The kids had to make something for the fair, and the parents would then come and pay big bucks (lire), which would then be donated to charity. So I had to come up with something that 5-year-olds could assemble that would be useful and look somewhat presentable, in a country without mega-craft stores like Michael's or Ben Franklin.

I know! I thought. We'll make...wrapping paper!

So I had my Kindergarteners dip sponges shaped like candy canes, reindeer and trees into red and green paint and make patterns on large sheets of paper.

When the craft fair had come and gone, I had learned three things:
1. Candy canes never made it to Italy.
2. The reindeer aren't big here. In fact, no one's ever even heard of Rudolph.
3. Italians don't wrap their own gifts.

That last point I learned after the 10th parent picked up his child's wrapping paper creation and said, "Oh! Bellissimo! It's...a painting. Of something."

When I explained it was wrapping paper, they just looked at me like: "Why would I want to wrap anything in this?"

So in the end, you may spend 30 minutes finding a parking place outside of the gift shop, another 10 minutes trying to get someone to assist you (that's for another post) and 15 minutes listening to the clerk chat with the customer in front of you about the weather. get your gifts wrapped for free.

I'll take it.


Rilla said...

Hilarious! Pays to do research huh? How come the kids never asked you what the h*** they were making in the first place!
Yeah, they used to wrap gifts in Oz too, especially at Christmas time. But my favorite wrapping is in Japan. Everything is wrapped and then wrapped and then wrapped AGAIN. Takes an age to actually get to the candy in the candy box, but hey each one is done up soooo prettily...if only I weren't dying to get me teeth into it ;)
I remember growing up in India, wrapping paper was an alien concept in those days. Mom used to save and save wrapping paper we might get on gifts and keep it all in this big box. Presents at Christmas took hours to unwrap because you absolutely had to pull off each piece of scotch tape WITHOUT ruining a square millimeter of paper and heaven forbid you didn't untie ALL the knots in the ribbon...
Then I came to the States and my heart would tear out everytime I watched someone rip off the paper from a gift I had taken so much time to wrap...

debi in holland said...

They do the same here in the Netherlands -- but most of the time, you don't even have to ask! They assume everything you buy is a gift and will start to wrap it unless you ask them not to.

Very, very nice perk, isn't it?

Disco Mermaids said...

I tend to wrap everything--year round--in Christmas paper. We just have so much of it!!

Happy Birthday to your daughter! My boy's 5th is on Tuesday...and the pirate party is next weekend. Aaarrgghh!


Rilla said...

What a great idea, Robin. Maybe I should donate all my Christmas paper to you as well...I have a TON of it ;)
Natalie, I noticed you did an ARC review of Jay's 13 Reasons Why. At the risk of sounding totally ignorant and/or stupid, can I ask you a question? What exactly is an ARC?

Natalie said...

Hey Rilla!

I LOVED the way they wrapped gifts in Japan--it was like some oragami version of gift wrapping. If the box was a perfect cube, they could even wrap it without tape--very impressive. If you ever give me a gift, I'll be sure to take my time unwrapping it. ;-)

About the ARC (and no, it's not a stupid question!) it stands for "Advanced Reading Copy," and it comes out before the official publication date (in Jay's case, his book comes out in October of this year, and I think the ARC's came out a few months ago). They're usually sent out to reviewers or given away in contests and at book fairs (like Bologna, BEA this weekend in NYC, etc.) to drum up publicity before the book's officially released. I'd never seen an ARC before this one, and it's kind of cool--it says "Advanced Reading Copy--Not For Sale!" across the front, and it's got Penguin Razorbill's national marketing campaign plans on the back. Jay said he'd be giving away another ARC on his blog when he gets ahold of one.

Hi Debi!
It is a nice perk, I agree--especially around the holdiays when everything is so crazy. I can even pick out a gift for my kids while they're with me in the shop...I just sneak it up to the cash register and ask them to wrap it ahead of time, then they slip it into the bag when I check out.

Hey Robin,
Happy Birthday to your son! Here's hoping he gets lots of presents wrapped in Christmas paper. Good luck with the pirate party with all those 5-year-old boys running around yelling "Arghhh"...keep a little rum on hand for yourself. ;-)

Rilla said...

Thanks a bunch for clearing that up, Natalie. Now I feel a little smarter ;)

edna said...

Hey Natalie,
I "know" you from the Blue Boards (I'm ecm) and I've enjoyed reading your blog! It brought back memories of living, working and shopping in Japan. The speed at which they wrapped things never ceased to amaze me. They wrapped everything I bought--food, cosmetics, tampons, you name it!
I also got a kick out of reading your posting on Italian Mamas. Very funny stuff! And the part about t-shirts?...Filipinos are that way too! Although I'm first generation born and raised in the US, I must have picked up the under tee habit from my Filipina mom. Without really thinking about it, I used to make sure my babies had t-shirts on beneath their clothes no matter the weather. My very American hubby would say I was trying to cook the babies. lol... BTW, my friend is married to an Italian fellow (they live in CA now) and I will send her to your blog--I think she will be able to relate...!
edna :-)

Natalie said...

Hi Edna,

Thanks for stopping by! Maybe we Americans are the only undershirt-less culture around, I'm not sure. :-)

Where did you live in Japan? I was in Yokohama, and I forgot all about the wrapping of everyday items--pharmacists used to wrap up everything like a package, and the cashiers would wrap up the Tampax at the grocery store--ha! I'd completely forgotten!

Edna said...

Hey Natalie,

I enjoy visiting your blog, btw. Learning so much about Italy--I wanna go! To answer your question about where I lived in Japan... I was based primarily in Osaka, but my dance company traveled a lot to places like Kobe, Furokawa and Hiroshima. FYI, I lived there about 4 months. The other 3 months I was touring/working in Taiwan w/ the dance group.

I enjoyed Japan immensely. In fact, I received a compliment on my name the first time in my life in Japan! Ha! Imagine that? My mistreated, stereotypically old-fashioned name (in America) fetched me a compliment. The guy actually pronounced it: Eh-doh-nah. And yeah that DOES sound nice! lol

It was nice strolling down memory lane w/ ya about Japan.


Tara said...

Thought I would get caught up in your blog today. I am up to this point. I have only flown once, by myself, and it was internationally so I commend you on flying with 3 children, (btw your oldest and youngest are my daughters ages). I enjoy your stories. I get so focused on the dealings of negative stuff here lately, I have completely ignored the "mama moments" that truly make me smile.
Thank you for inspiration and the entertainment.
- Tara