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Lonely in Moscow? Just hire a friend

world Updated: Jun 20, 2010 10:19 IST
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Moscow as a city is called "tough" and "cold" and it is difficult to find friends here, especially for people from outside town who work in offices throughout the day. But now agencies in the Russian capital are offering friends for hire.

A new trend has swept Moscow and people new in town are taking "friends" on rent to accompany them to the movies, shopping, or to another friend's birthday.

Alexander Romanov has been in the business of providing friends for over eight years now. He says Moscow takes a toll on people wanting to make friends or find a date.

"Just where is someone who works in an office all day supposed to go to make friends?" he asks.

Romanov says corporate policies often say that people should keep friendship and work separate and nobody can come up to someone on the street and approach him or her for friendship.

"So what's left, especially if a person wants to make the impression of someone whose personal life is blooming?" Romanov was quoted as saying by Moscow News.

Romanov's agency, Alibi Private Service, specialises on what he calls "getting people out of difficult personal situations".

His clients "rent" a friend to go show shopping. He also offers services to get a straying spouse back. The majority of those who seek his services are women between the ages of 25 and 40 who don't have time for their social lives.

Another agency, Rentafriend.ru, offers the opportunity to meet someone at a café or chat with them online. A two-hour visit costs $16 (500 roubles) and online chatting for the same duration costs $19 (600 roubles).

But there are people from other cities who say it's not about where you live; it's your attitude towards making friends.

Lyudmila Kluyeva, who moved from Vladivostok to Moscow says: "The number of friends depends on you, and does not depend on the city."

About 40 per cent of Muscovites think making friends is not a geographical issue, and depends on the individual, while 30 per cent say Moscow is a hard place to make friends.

Angelina Mikhailova, 34, moved to Moscow after college from Yekaterinburg. At first, she found it hard to make the effort to make new friends, and felt lonely.

"As soon as I started going to places outside of work, it got better. One of my closest friends was my stretching partner in a yoga class I took," Mikhailova said. "I got more confident about approaching people, and saw that Moscow wasn't so cold after all."