The bar industry is full of horror stories of those who got involved in it. Some made bad decisions, others just had plain bad luck. From punters who get involved with the wrong lady to bar managers busted working without a work permit to those who bought a bar and lost everything, it is not just customers who have sad tales to tell. Those employed in or who invested in the industry have tales of misery too. If the horror stories haven't deterred you, the good news is that there are more options than ever for those who want to be a part of the bar industry, with more job openings and opportunities than ever before. Here are some of them.
There's an old chestnut that some smug individuals repeat ad nauseum, "If you want to make a small fortune in Thailand, start with a large fortune and buy a bar." There is some truth in it and many who have invested in the bar industry have lost their shirt. But just as true is that many have done extremely well and even today, there are bar owners with a single venue making the sort of money many of us dream of with monthly profits running high in to 6 figures baht not unusual.
There are few barriers to becoming a bar owner and at any time many bars are for sale. The vast majority are not openly advertised as being on the market so you may need to ask around, or better still, get in touch with the Sunbelt Asia business brokerage.
If there is one piece of advice I would give to would-be bar owners, it is to spend as little as possible when entering the industry. Try to find a bar in a popular bar area where the owner is desperate to get out – it shouldn't be too hard! There are numerous stories of bar owners dropping the asking price by as much as 80%, so keen are they to get out. And be wary of taking on a venue with crazy high rents to meet every month.
There are lots of other things to be aware of such as how long is remaining on the lease, what the future of the bar area is etc, but if you have say 5 million baht that you're willing to throw at a project, the potential is there to make A LOT of money.
It should be noted that you don't buy a bar, you simply get the lease. If you're serious about being around for a while, make sure you have first rights on the lease renewal and that it's in the contract.
If you genuinely want to run a bar business (as opposed to having your own bar for lifestyle reasons), there is no reason why you cannot do very well financially out of it. Millionaires – I mean dollar millionaires – have been made in the bar business.
Bar Manager / Bar Host
It's surprising there aren't more foreign bar managers in Thailand's naughty bar industry. I guess that's primarily because Thai-owned bars seldom employ foreign managers and a lot of foreign bar owners manage their bar themselves.
Most bar managers are not managers in the true sense of the word in that they don't do the hiring or the firing or the stock control or the financials or all of those things that are generally considered the core duties of a manager. Rather, the role of many foreign bar managers is to look after customers, to chat with them and make sure they are happy. Bar managers tend to be hosts rather than a manager. Larry, formerly of Secrets and now of Babydolls, is probably the best example of a bar host. Brit Ricky who has managed a number of bars over the years in both Bangkok and Pattaya is a good example of a manager in the true sense of the word, in that he did a lot of the behind the scenes stuff and his duties were not limited to being in the bar in the evening and making sure customers are happy.
Getting a bar manager's position can come down to luck and is often about who you know, and being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes job ads are posted online – and a number of bar managers have entered the industry after responding to ads that bar bosses asked me to post in this column. Mister Egg and Captain Hornbag are just two bar managers who got their lucky break in the bar industry by responding to an ad run in this column.
There's quite a range in the salaries paid to foreign bar managers and the glamour that goes with such positions is hardly commensurate with the measly remuneration. The average bar manager's salary is around 60,000 baht per month. The odd bar manager may have a profit share component to his salary, say a base of 50K baht / month plus a small percentage share of the bar's profits. One lucky bar manager with such a deal was pulling around 150K baht a month in Pattaya for a while when the bar was booming. The lowest monthly salary currently paid to a foreign bar manager that I know of is 40,000 baht.
Bar manager salaries and language institute teacher's salaries have one thing in common – they don't seem to have moved much in a long time. An Englishman who managed a top floor Nana Plaza bar was pulling in around 100,000 baht per month 10+ years ago – the salary varied month to month depending on the performance of the bar / part of his package was related to the profits. I can't think of any red-light bar managers earning that today.
Probably less than half of bar manager positions come with a work permit so you're flying under the radar. Given the nastiness in the industry, particularly in Pattaya, I'd question whether you'd want to manage a bar without a work permit. One Pattaya gogo bar manager whose bar was booming and who shall remain nameless was told by Immigration that they had been tipped off by a number of other bar owners that he was working illegally. He wasn't and he had the blue book.
If you really want to manage a bar, consider an expat pub. Managers of British pubs earn more than those managing bars in red light areas, and pub jobs almost always come with a work permit. They typically have a much better package with a higher salary, fewer hours of work and better perks like a free meal every day. Some pub managers work a 5-day week, many gogo bar managers work 6 days a week.
It has been my observation that gogo bar managers in Thailand burn out. At the time, most say how much they like it, but when they get out they'll tell you how they came to hate it. For managers especially (as opposed to bar hosts), there are a lot of headaches to deal with on a daily basis. It might sound like a dream job to some; I wouldn't do it for any amount of money.
Bar Group / Area Manager
The industry in Bangkok is dominated by a few groups (Eclipse, Stumble Inn, The Arab, The King's Group, Rainbow, Nana Group etc.) and as more bars are acquired by the big bar groups and there are fewer independent operators, these groups need managers to oversee all of the businesses within the group. The owners can't do everything themselves.
These roles can vary from operations managers where the managers are hands on, doing the rounds of the bars and overseeing the daily operations, to positions which are more akin to a management accountant, going over the books and making recommendations based on the numbers.
These management positions come with a much more generous package, often around 150,000 – 200,000 baht per month, and may come with perks like a car or a condo. These are the best salaried positions in the bar industry (although the highest earning girls make more than what a group / general manager makes!)
These positions are seldom advertised and are very much about who you know. Often the company owners / investors will bring in someone they know / trust from other businesses in their group. Amazingly, more than a few in management roles often have little in the way of management experience and may be relatively new to Thailand. Said positions seem to be more about relationships with owners than skill set. Remember, this is the bar business and owners like to place those they can trust in key positions.
There seems to be a general acceptance these days that long-time is something most bargirls don't care for and the concept harks back to a time when customers were fewer in number and more difficult to come by. To lock in a customer for a period of time and maximise their income, girls offered long-time. With long-time less common these days, it is much less likely for a relationship to develop between a lady and her customer. The upshot of all of this is that the days of some foreigners making beer money investigating what a lady of the night is up to for her lovelorn beau in Farangland are largely over.
Probably only one foreign investigator whose primary business was investigating ladies of the night (as opposed to other areas of investigation) made a living as a specialist bargirl investigator. It's several years since Warren Olsen returned to New Zealand after selling his high profile bargirl investigation agency, ThaiPrivateEye, for $20,000.
At one time the bargirl investigation market was competitive with several foreigners advertising their services but most have gone by the wayside. Like I say, Warren was the only one who made a living from it over a period of time. It never made him rich but he sure had a lot of fun and many adventures. The days of foreigners making money investigating Thai bargirls is pretty much over.
Bar Industry Blogger / Columnist
Many online bloggers / columnists / bar industry commentators have come and gone over the years. Few last and even fewer have made a living from it.
The traditional model has been to write about the comings and goings in the industry while selling advertising space on the website. That model worked for a long time but the days of making easy money with such an unsophisticated model are over.
The main challenge for nightlife industry bloggers is Facebook which has pulled a lot of traffic away from nightlife-centric sites and forums. Along with the huge amount of content already online, what can you say that has not already been said? The market is saturated. You really need to do something to stand out such as being first with bar news, developing a voice that appeals or doing something better than everyone else.
There are no barriers to entry and anyone can start a bar industry website. All you need is a laptop and a camera – and a passion for the bar industry helps. It sounds easy, right? Don't forget: MANY have tried and most don't last.
The big challenge for a bar website startup is that most bars won't take a punt by advertising on a new site so making money in the early days is a challenge. That could mean a long time with little or no income. You need to build up content and establish a track record – which could take many months, perhaps a year or more – and even then nothing is certain. Once you are established and bar owners start to take notice of what you say then you can just sit back because they will come to you.
This is what I see as the main problem with blogging – it can take a long time before you see any return, and it can take a long time to generate a liveable income from it with absolutely no guarantee that you will get there. Those who have done ok from it tended to have money already or had something else on the go.
I imagine good money can still be made blogging and a blogger on top of their game can potentially make what those on a true expat package earn – but it can take a long time to get there and there are no guarantees.
Known as digital marketing manager, media manager, IT marketing, or any number of terms along those lines, this is the new growth area for Westerners keen to work in the bar industry.
Bar owners are generally not known for promoting their businesses – there was no need to in the past – but there has been something of a change in recent years as bar owners have seen customer numbers fall and are now more willing to spend money promoting their bar.
Until recently, there were a few Bangkok-based webmasters who specialised in creating content for Bangkok bar owners and who managed the bar's web presence. With what seemed like a uniform pricing of 10,000 baht per month, they would maintain the bar's website and update it. Some could handle a camera and would do the odd bar photo shoot and other odd tasks like creating posters for events. One friend looked after several bar websites and did well from that, especially as it was just a small part of his total online content management business.
Increasingly, bar groups are employing a media manager whose responsibility is to manage the bar's profile online and promote the venue. Their role is not just to update the bar's website and Facebook page, but to post to the nightlife forums and get the name of the bar out there.
Those in full-time media manager positions earn around 70,000 baht although as one recently appointed media manager said to me, it's a full-time salary for a part-time role with plenty of time for all of the other things he has on the go. For those who still enjoy the bar scene, the perks can be good with an expense account for drinks.
If you're good with a camera, can write a little, are comfortable editing websites, know how to manage a Facebook page and have a passion for the bar industry, this could be the role for you. I expect more and more media managers will be taken on as bars look to increase their profile online.
The Reality Of Bar Industry Jobs
While there are more opportunities to work in the bar industry than ever, the reality is that with most of these jobs you are flying under the radar. Most positions don't come with a work permit and the sight of a bar manager pretending to be a customer and scrambling out the bar when it is raided by the men in tight brown uniforms is not an uncommon sight.
The bar industry has more dark forces at play these days and getting offside with the wrong people – perhaps they are your employer or perhaps they don't like your employer – can come back to haunt you. No-one in the industry likes to admit it until they are out, but many who have been there will tell you that working in the bar industry you open yourself up to the sort of people you may seek to avoid if you were back in Farangland. There are some good people in the industry for sure, but there are some right rat bags too.
Any bar industry job will be fun for a while, but I question how many employed in the industry are genuinely satisfied in their job. Many roles make for a lonely existence. Bar managers (and bar owners) perching at the bar night after night, watching naked young ladies gyrate against chrome poles while drinking and chatting with customers from all over the world might sound like a dream job but the truth is that it's often unfulfilling, boring and lonely. Would you really want to hear the same old stories from drunks night after night?
If you really want to work in the bar industry, there are more opportunities than ever before. But is it really what you want?!
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken from the top floor of the wonderful Margarita Storm at the corner of Sukhumvit soi 13, looking east along Sukhumvit Road. The lady in the photo was an escort and was to be a girl of the week but for some reason I cannot remember (the photo was taken some time ago), I never did run her photos.
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
Thailand's inflation rate.
The overall inflation rate in Thailand seems to be quite modest, as per below stats:
2013 2.1 9%
2014 1.9 %
2015 -0.9 %
2016 0.22 %
So why are prices / inflation in the entertainment areas so out of kilter with general inflation? Hotel prices seem to be up more than the inflation rate too but I guess that could simply be supply and demand as tourism seems to remain very strong there despite all the negative press. Maybe some fodder there for a future column /commentary?
Could Brexit lead to a Sexit?
Previous columns have mentioned how Thailand sometimes attracts the worst of the lowlife from the Western world but I suppose in fairness we still have plenty of them here that never go near Thailand. I started thinking about Brexit and the impact it could have on British expats in Thailand, particularly anybody that is dependent on a British pension. £1 sterling would have got you 53 – 55 baht 12 months ago. Now it gets you about 46 baht. That's about a 15% fall. When you put this together with the reported rampant inflation in expat bars it must make for uncomfortable budgeting for British expats on fixed incomes / budgets. Could Brexit lead to a mass Sexit for impacted punters? Maybe the older guys / pensioners are less motivated by the sex aspects of life in Thailand and may not be as sorely impacted by expat bar prices as the younger guys but even so, a 15% drop in real income is a hard blow for anybody to take. Watch that space. Brexit has also seen the Euro weaken against other currencies although the fall against the baht has been modest and it's currently hovering around 38 baht to the Euro. The heady days of 50+ baht to the Euro last seen in 2010 are now a distant memory. My personal reaction to dealing with this exchange rate pain is to reduce the amount of time I spend in Thailand so my holiday this year will be pared back to 18 days instead of the usual 21 days. I wonder how others cope with the additional cost of visiting Thailand? The price gouging in some of the expat bars has become very noticeable in recent years so it's great to get your ongoing updates on where the best deals are to be had.
Banned from working in Thailand.
I am a fully trained, licensed, professional tour guide in my home country. I work for a professional, licensed company running tours & hikes in my home country. Why can't I do the same line of business in Thailand? Why don't the Thais understand that Westerners don't want them trying to run so-called tours, walks, etc. in their country? Westerners want their fellow Westerners taking visitors out on the streets and in to the hills. Western tourists don't want cheating local guides ripping them off! Why don't Thais allow decent, respectable, professional Western tour guides to lead Western tourists in Thailand?
Parking reserved for the mafia!
The Pattaya One story of Steve Short being threatened by motorcycle taxi mafia had several disturbing angles. One was that the police (and building security) did not protect Steve. To add insult to injury, the police advised Steve to apologise to the person(s) who threatened his life! I taught in Phuket for three years. In year one, I was about to park my car in a public parking spot (much as Steve Short did) when a tuktuk driver said in a very unpleasant manner that that particular spot was for the tuktuk mafia and I had better not park there. That shook me up. I asked several fellow teachers and our Thai staff about this and they responded that I was lucky to have been warned before I parked!
Two great deals.
Just an idea but a section on “Deals of the Week” might be of interest to your some of your readers. Here's two: Au Bon Pain is offering “buy 1 get 1 free” for all specialty coffees – hot, iced and frozen – every Monday and Thursday from 1 – 5 PM until September 1st. Bangkok Airways is running a short promotion starting tomorrow. This airline offers (I think) free seat reservations and check-in luggage. It also serves free F&B on board and allows all passengers to use their private airport lounges, which serve light refreshments. This last privilege is really great. However, on one flight I took with them, we still had to walk from the airplane to a bus to take us to the terminal, a la LCC.
The lost war on drugs.
With regard to the so-called 'lost war on drugs', it's not just Thailand, it's the whole world. Paibon attended the last UN meeting on drug regulations in which they admitted that prohibition doesn't work (no government has ever successfully banned anything). I'm impressed he came back and made the comments he did. Locking up non-violent people for making themselves feel good is ludicrous especially when alcohol and cigarettes are so damaging. Meth can be an extremely dangerous drug, but in its current, unregulated state, anyone can buy it and it's contaminated with all sorts of impurities. I've been reading about this subject for about 5 years now. I'm a total 180 degree convert. I was of the 'hang-em-high' school of thought until I met lots of people who smoke marijuana or use ecstasy on a regular basis and still maintain decent jobs and relationships with no negative effects. I realised that a drug user isn't necessarily a drug addict in exactly the same way that not all drinkers are alcoholics. We treat alcoholics as patients. We should treat addicts in the same way. And people who commit crimes while under the influence of drugs should be punished. But people who get high and go home aren't criminals. They're just people. One day we will look back on these days the same way we look back on the days of segregation, suffrage and gay inequality. People who want to experience / enjoy drugs don't deserve to be imprisoned.
The draft charter electoral vote to be held next Sunday, August 7th, means another dry day in the bars. Strictly speaking, the sale of alcohol is prohibited from 6:00 PM Saturday until midnight Sunday so this coming Saturday, August 6th, will be a dry day with the sale of alcohol prohibited. Why? Well, it just would not be right for the populace to vote whilst inebriated, would it?! If my memory serves me right, on election days the bars usually get the ok from local coppers to open around 8:00 or 9:00 PM so you'll have plenty of time to read next week's weekly column before your favourite bar opens.
Billboard was pumping on Friday night and felt exactly like the good old days. The top floor Nana Plaza bar was packed – with girls and customers. There was no space on the dance floor nor the Jacuzzi for any more dancers and it was so busy that some customers were (happily) standing with no seats free. Over 120 girls were dancing like there was no tomorrow and there was a real party vibe in the bar. Billboard had so many girls loaded up on the carousel that it couldn't take the load and stopped rotating! Management tells me they typically get 120 girls dancing on Friday nights and 80 – 90 most other nights.
Famous ex-Long Gun showgirl Apple is shaking it up on the dance floor at Billboard. Apple has a look not that dis-similar to Soda at The Strip, with very short, bleached blond hair and a good few tattoos.
The current owners of a once popular Pattaya show bar known for rock dancers recently asked the founder of the bar if he was interested in buying it back, so bad is business. The original owner has no interest in it. Oh, how the great have fallen.
Nana Plaza might have the better of Soi Cowboy at this time with more happening bars and more of a party vibe, but there is one area where Cowboy has the better of Nana – happy hours. Happy hours have never been a big thing in Nana Plaza whereas some of the best bars in Soi Cowboy like Tilac and Dollhouse have long had generous happy hours. There are some happy hours in Nana Plaza but they're not heavily promoted. If you're on a budget and in Nana Plaza early, drop by Play Skool where it's 95 baht for all standard drinks until 9:30 PM. More gogo bar happy hours in Nana Plaza would be nice and would provide some genuine competition to the happy hours in Soi Cowboy.
If twins is a fantasy of yours, stop by Play Skool, on the ground floor of Nana Plaza which currently has two twins. Of mixed Thai / Vietnamese heritage, they each feature over-sized headlights.
The twins can be found dancing at Play Skool in Nana Plaza.
The petrol station at the top of Soi Nana sits on a large swathe of prime real estate. Why hasn't better use been made of the land – surely a petrol station isn't profitable enough to justify that spot? Maybe things are about to change with the petrol station closed along with the small 7 Eleven and McDonald's branches that were adjoined. All have been gutted and a fence erected across the front to keep the public out. Is this petrol station undergoing a renovation or is a new development planned for the top of Soi Nana? Along with the demolition of the beautifully built Strikers bar in the Raja Hotel car park, a couple of hundred metres down Soi Nana, it looks like Bangkok's most vibrant naughty nightlife soi is undergoing a number of changes. Will things move a little more upmarket or are more nightlife venues coming?
In the small alley off Sukhumvit soi 6 perhaps known for the two houses of oral relief, Lolita's and Kasalong, there is a travel agency with a most appropriate name. Is BJ Flight Services a legitimate name i.e. is it perhaps an acronym for the owner's name, or rather is it a play on what the soi is known for amongst foreigners who are frequent visitors to the alley?!
The Sportsman on Sukhumvit soi 13 has a free BBQ and Open Mic Night with all night happy hour starting this Thursday, August 4th. Every Thursday night, their upstairs bar takes a leap back in time with all night happy hour prices including Tiger & Singha pints at 99 baht and a free BBQ from 8 PM. Get in quick because when the free BBQ is gone, it's gone! The Sportsman can be a little hard to find and is a couple of hundred metres down Sukhumvit soi 13 on the ground floor at the far end of the Trendy Apartment Building.
The booze ban due to the election on August 6th means the 14th anniversary party at Patpong's Club Electric Blue has been brought forward a day and will now take place this Friday, August 5th. Girls from Club Electric Blue Patpong's sister bars in Pattaya will be there to help celebrate so expect to see girls from G Spot Pattaya, Dollhouse Pattaya and of course, Electric Blue Pattaya there. It should be a fun night.
When the coyote dancer concept first hit Soi Cowboy some 10+ years ago, it wasn't popular with the punters but it was easy enough to get your head around. Coyote dancers were for the most part just that – dancers. They were not prostitutes and for the most part were not available i.e. they could be not be barfined. Sure, some met up with customers after they finished dancing, perhaps because they found the fellow attractive, or perhaps because he made them an offer so good that they couldn't turn it down. Remember, coyote dancers once really were semi-professional dancers who could shake up a storm on the dance floor. But things don't stand still in the bar business and things have changed markedly from when coyote dancers first appeared. As things changed, some coyote dancers were barfineable – with a premium barfine of 1,000 – 2,000 baht the norm. To really confuse matters, there were coyote dancers and agency girls and the terms became almost interchangeable. A coyote dancer was once a professional dancer whereas an agency girl may or may not have been a decent dancer and may or may not have been available – she simply was a lady who was sourced from an agency and was not employed by the bar. It all became very confusing. Today, the coyote concept causes problems as punters just don't know what the lady on stage is. Is she a gogo dancer who is barfineable? If she is a coyote dancer, is she barfineable or not? And who are the agency girls and what does that mean? Just as there are many different profiles of girls, there are many different types of customers – some go out for a few drinks to soak up the atmosphere and dancing girls are just a backdrop; others go out primarily looking for someone to have sex with. It is the latter who are annoyed when it is not clear who is who and what the rules are. Seriously, to all you bar owners, if you have dancers who are not barfineable or are barfineable but a premium rate is asked for, why not post a few signs around the bar with information?
What is it with the way some Thai restaurants in Thailand don't serve rice until after all of the other dishes have been brought to the table? It strikes me as ridiculous. I totally get it that food comes at different times – brought to the table as each dish is cooked – and that is a good thing. But why not serve the rice when the first dish is served so diners can start eating? In a number of restaurants, from low-end places like Took Lae Dee to better Thai restaurants popular with well-to-do Thais, some don't bring the rice until all the dishes have been delivered…and I just don't get it. Am I missing something here?
Ace expat fiction writer John Daysh is giving his new e-book away free on Amazon to all Stickman readers from today through to Wednesday, August 3rd. All he asks in return is that readers post an honest review online. You can download Like A Moth To A Flame now. It will also be available in paperback – but that version isn't free, I'm afraid. From his hideaway in small-town New Zealand, John is writing the next book in the series, "Escapology", the prologue of which is the short story he read at the Bangkok Night of Noir at CheckInn99 early last year.
The favoured border point for Bangkok-based foreigners who need to make a visa run is the border crossing with Cambodia at Aranya Prathet / Poi Pet. Please note that there have been reports of extremely long queues at that border and at peak times some people have stood in the queue for hours. Word is that it's best to avoid Fridays and the weekend, especially so at holiday weekends. The quietest days and thus the best days to cross are Mondays and Tuesdays.
I note yet another long-running website in Thailand is up for sale with the Canadian-owned and run Baht And Sold now offered for the reduced price of 7.5 million baht. I don't know the traffic numbers or financials of the site so it's hard to comment but if the owner can get that amount for his baby I am sure he will be very happy indeed.
The Strip in Patpong soi 2 has 2 for 1 drinks this Thursday and Friday, all night long – see details on the poster below for this great deal!
Quote of the week comes from Dave the Rave, "In McDonald's I wait forever for my order, only Thais can turn fast food in to slow food!"
A Bangkok Post article confirms what I have long been saying, Thai women are getting beefier!
The Guardian ran a video about the Thai fishing industry and human trafficking.
An Italian and a Moroccan training at a Muay Thai club near Hua Hin are mugged by 3 locals.
The latest update from incarcerated Central America sex tourist Cuba Dave was posted to his site this week.
A mayor in Khon Kaen is accused of locking reporters in office and having their trousers removed!
The New Zealand Herald looks at the doctor, the Bangkok-based passport forger who produced the world's best fakes.
Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: I see that the authorities are cracking down on condo owners renting out their rooms for a night or two. I was wondering whether this law applies to stand alone houses also? There are many houses around me that are only rented out for Saturday night. Thanks for any advice.
Sunbelt Legal responds: Any home owner renting out their home on a daily or weekly basis rather than under a monthly lease contract or longer may be considered in violation of the Hotel Act. If you are renting out more than four rooms then you need a hotel license. However, the tax authorities may frown on these kinds of businesses as they are not paying any taxes and that could be an issue with the local authorities.
It is important to note that any income from such rentals is taxable under Thai revenue laws and is subject to personal income tax owed to the Revenue Department. Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has an extensive team of accountants who can assist you in ensuring your taxes are paid and you do not end up with a tax bill to the Thai government.
The sun sets on Vientiane, Laos, with Thailand on the opposite banks of the river.
Where once I aimed to produce a 6,500-word weekly column (an arbitrary number that just felt like it was about the right length), now I aim for 4,000. This week's edition was longer than planned and in the end blew out to 6,000. Not hanging out in the bars or around today's expat movers and shakers does not help with gathering news and gossip, obviously, and I'll be the first to admit that this column is not as relevant as it once was. So where is this column and my involvement with it going? I've reduced the amount of time I spend on the column as I concentrate on other things. From 2008 until 2014 I put the column first and spent a lot of time working on the site in general. I just don't have the time to dedicate to it these days. The days of spending 50 – 60 hours a week on the Stickman site are the past. I still do my best to produce an interesting, relevant and hopefully worthwhile read while at the same time I hope that you understand that life changes, as do our priorities. If this column doesn't feel the way it used to, it's primarily a time thing. I hope you understand.