There are video rentals and book rentals, but did you know you can rent a boyfriend too? Recently, a report stated that “Rent a Boyfriend” services are popping up in China with the approach of the Chinese New Year. Single Chinese women not wanting to appear unattached bring home pretend boyfriends to meet their parents. Why do these ladies need to rent a boyfriend just to get through a festival? Who are these rental boyfriends and what do they do? This article explores the reasons a single lady in China might consider renting a pretend boyfriend and looks at two amusing advertisements by rental boyfriends.

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Being single over a certain age is a social stigma

You would think that marriage is a personal choice but Chinese women who are single after the age of 30 are often referred to as “leftover women”[1], and that’s one of the kinder terms used to describe these single ladies. They’re also likely to be bombarded with unwanted questions and snide remarks on why they’re still unattached. Rather than deal with nosey relatives for the entire duration of the Chinese New Year festival, a single lady might consider renting a boyfriend to silence these gossips.

social stigma - disapproving looks
Credit: Miguel Pires da Rosa

If you’re not attached, we’ll set you up with someone

(whether you want it or not)

Chinese parents are known to be overzealous in setting up their adult children with potential marriage partners. In Shanghai, parents flock to People’s Park to find suitable marriage candidates or put up ads seeking partners for their children and this is often done without the child’s permission[2]. Instead of subjecting herself to unwanted matchmaking sessions or suffering the embarrassment of finding her own photos put up in the park by a well-intentioned parent, a single lady might choose to rent a boyfriend instead.

chinese parents trying to matchmake adult child in a park
Credit: ToastyKen

Chinese parents putting up advertisements for their unmarried adult children (with or without their permission!). Photos, personal information such as age, income, education level are often included.

Some just want parents to worry less

In Chinese culture, a strong emphasis is placed on children and the continuation of the family line[3] and it is the norm for one to be married and settled by the age of thirty[4]. An unmarried child, especially a female one, over the age of 30 worries Chinese parents to no end. Rather than dampen the festive mood, a single lady might opt to bring home a well-mannered pretend boyfriend to lessen her parents’ worries.

So who are these pretend boyfriends?

What kind of pretend boyfriend would a single Chinese lady bring home to her parents? Let’s look at two rental boyfriends who have posted their listings on a popular Chinese shopping portal

Rent a boyfriend #1: Cleaning services included

rent a boyfriend #1Credit: screenshot of

Rental boyfriend #1 describes himself as an average-looking guy who is well versed in social interaction and has no problems facing any potential interrogation from parents or relatives. He’ll take care of any planning for outdoor activities or shopping provided expenses are all paid for by the renter. As a bonus, he’ll clean and cook too.


Rent a boyfriend #2: I'll rescue you from nasty relatives

rent a boyfriend 2Credit: screenshot of boyfriend #2 describes himself as an earnest, mature and intellectual man. For just 499 yuan, he will accompany a lady to her hometown, carry her things, have conversations with her parents, watch television with them, go shopping together, visit relatives, and even go for morning exercise with her folks. Rental boyfriend #2 will even “lay down his life” (in his words) to fend off any catty relatives.

Both of these rental boyfriends craft their listings to appeal to ladies who need a pretend boyfriend to deal with questioning relatives for the new year. From the transaction history visible on their listings, this apparently works.

Renting a boyfriend may seem ridiculous at first glance but considering the stigma associated of being a single female over 30 in China, it’s no wonder some Chinese ladies would consider renting a pretend boyfriend to ward off worried parents, unwanted matchmaking offers, and other undesirable consequences of going home alone for the new year.