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L’Ennui de Vivre

How to perform the perfect Gallic shrug

Author Chris Wright Illustration Luci Gutiérrez


PARIS – It’s July 14: Bastille Day. You’re at Café de Flore, sipping vin ordinaire and reading L’Étranger, when a tourist noisily asks you to point him to the Trocadéro for the “Bass-dilly Day” fireworks. There is, naturellement, only one response.


1 The Face
Pull the sides of your mouth down, as in a child’s sad-face drawing, while raising your eyebrows to their highest possible point. The effect should suggest a combination of vague unhappiness and mild surprise.

2 The Arms
Raise your hands, palms up, to a point just below shoulder height, as if holding two drink trays. Don’t hold your hands too high, as the resulting “stress position,” may turn your disdainful expression into more of a grimace. 

3 The Motion
Bring your shoulders up until they touch your ears. Hold this position until your target moves on. With practice, you’ll be able to raise your shoulders and eyebrows at the same time, heightening the withering effect.

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