Chinese youth renting out friendship as a side hustle

While there are many opportunities for people to engage in extra jobs to earn extra income, one particular job is hitting up the streets in China. Latest trends show that Chinese youth are now renting out their time to strangers for extra cash. They do not rent their time to perform conventional jobs as many do in other parts of the world, they rent out their time to be your ‘friend’ for a specified period, get paid and leave.

That is the new business taking shape in China among the Chinese youth. First, it was the renting of girlfriends that took centre stage. Young people rented ‘girlfriends’ to go home during holidays. The girlfriend renting services were adopted by Chinese youth to shoot down societal pressure, especially from families during the Chinese New Year.

Some men used the method because they genuinely were not in any relationships. However, reports also indicate that gay men patronized the services of these girls because they could not visit their families with their gay partners. One factor that drove that trend was the economic conditions that washed down on Chinese youth, forcing the supposed ‘girlfriends’ to opt in for the financial benefits.

How much do Chinese youth pay?

How much was this the financial package to entice people to jump in as acting ‘girlfriends’? Well, the pay was between 500 to 1000 yuans (approximately between US$70 to US$140). Aside from that, they also stand the privilege of receiving red envelopes, a Chinese New Year tradition that dates back centuries. The ‘yasui qian’ can offer much more than even the 500 yuan rate.

According to M9, one lady said she earned US$5800 a day for renting out her services. There are websites where people can meet such girls. The services are rendered on a platonic basis but when the girls are asked to go further by engaging in activities such as kissing and sex, the prices go up.

Another trend developed later but that one was more common globally and could be likened to Airbnb. With that type of renting, Chinese youth shared beds and are called ‘bedmates’. This was out of necessity as rent prices skyrocketed in the East Asian country. Two people who probably do not know each other but cannot individually afford rent in Chinese cities would split the rent and share the bed.

Megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai are the hotspots for bed-sharing and have been described as a booming trend in those cities. People post those adverts on websites, describing the features of the rooms and the type of people they prefer. These normally are all-male or all-female.

Why are Chinese youth renting friends?

Just like the two previous reasons, each party is involved in this practice because of familiar gains. While the one paying uses the girls to show off and avoid pressure at family gatherings or other social events, the other is in for the cash. It is not just showing off at social events that trigger this artificial relationship that is creating a new industry. People sometimes just want someone to hear them out so they use this method to get someone to listen to them pour out their hearts.

Chinese youth have resorted to renting friends for social events
Young Asian couple enjoying a conversation in a bar. Shutterstock ID 195239240

But why not go for a real friend but rent? While friendship is a gift, it is not completely free. With friendship comes responsibilities. If you want to have those friends whom you call on when you need someone you also need to be there when they need you. But with a world highly influenced by individualism and isolation, many think it is time-saving and cost-efficient to not keep friends. That is not a stretch-out rule for everyone though as some have either had bad experiences with keeping friends or are unable to keep up with its attendant demands.

Cost wise, it is cheaper as with 125 yuans, you can get a friend for one hour. You do not owe the person anything after that and no commitment whatsoever. This seems pretty good, especially for those who cannot find time to keep up with regular friends. While the trend is relatively new in China, it was already existing in Japan, years before now. In Japan, prices start from US$30 and the amount paid would determine what the ‘rented friend’ would do. It could just be hanging out with you dancing or giving a speech at your event.

But how safe is this renting of companionship? Nothing is without a price. So though you pay to have a friend or take money to be a friend, you may end up paying more. These are strangers who are contracted for short-term companionship. Their intentions are not known and details about their past won’t be known too. So the risk that either party could take the agreed terms beyond the borderlines is high. Violence against one party could occur especially if one party decides to play outside the agreed terms. While there is not much information about such incidents, experts have warned of possible consequences as reported by the Global Times.

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