Remember that super-cute story line from Love Actually in which Colin Firth’s character falls in love with his Portuguese housekeeper despite the fact that they don’t speak the same language?

Yeah, well, in real life, love really isn’t like that at all—at least it hasn’t been in my life or the lives of my amigos.

Actually, love—or its watered-down derivatives of flirting, dating, kissing and so on—doesn’t quite translate. Let’s face it, love connections aren’t even the norm between two English speakers at Duke smashed together in the hallway of a section party. So thoughts of it working abroad are idealistically dreamy at best.

Speaking of idealism, I don’t think the language and cultural barrier necessarily makes the expressing of feelings more difficult; it just makes it 1,000 times more hysterical when something goes awry. And I have the evidence to prove it.

Take for example, Exhibit A: a French guy in his early twenties and my friend, let’s call her Sydney, in a club this past July 4 in Oxford, England. Now, like any good Americans, my fellow Duke-in-Oxford companions and I were ringing in our first night out in England by celebrating a great American holiday. Sydney met this guy on the dance floor (clearly the place love blossoms best in any country), and they danced, talked and exchanged names at the end of the night to facilitate easy Facebook-friending and communication. They parted ways with an agreement to maybe see each other the next week. True love, obviously.

Fast forward a few days, and she has an official dinner date invitation to “The MacDonalds” (yes, he and other non-Americans tend to give it a title). After actually laughing out loud, she accepts. However, when the day of her date actually rolls around, she gets cold feet and backs out with a classic excuse (“I’m really tired, sorry”) and figures that’s the end of it. But this is “Great” Britain, not America, so this love affair plows forward. Frenchie, who clearly has the love bug bad, messages her, “I really want to have sex with you, meet me at The MacDonalds tomorrow and you can pick the time.”

And cut. Sorry French Don Juan, at least a minor attempt at getting to know a girl is required. And to think he had so much promise.

Poor Sydney is not the only female Dukie to narrowly avoid a swine flu-esque love potion. Exhibit B involves a similar setting in a different European country, this time Spain. All dance floors, whether Western-themed in Durham or seedy American-themed in Spain, all tend to give off a universal vibe of “come hither.”

Picture three girls from my program—I’ll call them Chelsea, Meghan and Sara—in one of the seedy American clubs we went to in Madrid our first week, standing near the bar in a typical girl-conference, attempting to decide what to do next. Suddenly, they are surrounded by a couple Spanish men in their mid-to-late thirties that look like they have just found love at first sight. “¡Están borrachas!” one said to his amigos.

Now, maybe if my friends didn’t know any Spanish whatsoever, they might have thought the men said, “You girls are beautiful.” But, unfortunately for the three aging Spanish men, we here in Duke-in-Madrid do know Spanish and, as a result, did know that he had just announced (with a grin on his face similar to a kid in a candy store): “They’re drunk!”

Wrong on all counts. Strike two for love.

Now onto Exhibit C, and this time we have a language match-up but a wide cultural gap. Another friend of mine in Spain—we’ll call her Nancy—was in the famous downtown district of Madrid. She was slightly near the gay district, but what college-aged girl doesn’t like hanging out with gay men? As Nancy was walking, an English-speaking woman approached her. Figuring she was probably going to ask a question, Nancy turned and gave her full attention to this new potential friend. After a few seconds, it became clear that she would not be a new friend—she was actually a lesbian prostitute trying to encourage Nancy to get to know her a little better. Panic ensued, and potential-friend-turned-love-failure was left in the dust.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my perspective of attempted love, European-style. Love may be all around us wherever we are, but normally it gets lost in translation. Maybe those section parties are the best place to find love after all.

(Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Laura Keeley is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Tuesday.