‘Why is it funny to point out something that everyone already knows about Swedish culture?’

Liam Kalevi
Liam Kalevi. Photo: Society Icon
What's the worst social offence you could commit in Sweden? How do Swedish people react when they run into each other on the street? These are some of the cultural quirks TikTok marketer Liam Kalevi delves into in a series of viral videos.

The 23-year-old started making TikTok videos while in lockdown in a cockroach-ridden apartment in Barcelona in March 2020. 

He’s made over one hundred TikTok videos in the last year and a half, showing off his talent for impersonations of European accents. Those videos have notched up a total of 9.1 million likes on the platform, and he has even been featured on Sweden’s official Instagram page. 

His most popular videos are skits imitating various languages deciding on words or on different cultures clashing, although his favourite is one about people who read horoscopes. 

@liamkalevi

Awkward #comedyskit #sweden #scandinavia #language

♬ original sound – Liam Kalevi

Kalevi grew up in one of the most multicultural households you can imagine, with a Finnish father and a Kenyan mother who spoke six languages between them. He spent four years in the UK before moving back to Sweden when he was five.  

“My mum comes from a very warm culture and she’s very outgoing and an extrovert. And my dad… isn’t.” 

He started out imitating his parents’ accents which grew into doing impressions of random people he’s encountered around the world. 

“I just did what came naturally to me and made up random sketches.”

@liamkalevi

SUOMI 🇫🇮 #tiktoksuomi #tiktokfinland #finland #lol #comedyskit

♬ original sound – Liam Kalevi

The videos are low-budget affairs, with Kalevi performing all the parts, sometimes using towels on his head instead of wigs to differentiate between characters.

Now back in Stockholm, the popularity of his videos has surprised him, and has even landed him a job at microinfluencer company Society Icon as their head of TikTok marketing.

“In the past week, three people came up to me on the street and said ‘I like your videos’.”

He thinks that the funniest thing about Swedish culture is the fear of conflict and the uncomfortable situations this can lead to, like when you eat terrible food at a restaurant but can’t bear to tell the staff.

“A lot of the comedy I make stems from the awkward situations because everybody is kind of concerned about what the group will think.”

@liamkalevi

True or nah? 🇸🇪 @hailemariam.b #sweden #comedyskit

♬ original sound – Liam Kalevi

He says his comedy “is kind of for everyone”. His videos don’t laugh at a culture, they laugh with it. You’re always in on the joke too. 

“When you make comedy about a nationality then everyone in the nationality can relate to it, whether you’re young or old.

“If you can relate to something, you feel like you’re a part of something. This is like our thing now. It’s something to do with community.”

A big part of Kalevi’s humour is finding a weirdly specific characteristic that lots of people take for granted. Despite being born in Sweden, English is his first language, and having a little bit of distance helps him notice the silly quirks of a culture that might not be obvious to the average Swede.

Still, he says he doesn’t know why people think his videos are so funny.

“Why is it funny to point out something that everyone already knows?”  

@liamkalevi

Please treat the butter with respect. #butter #comedyskit #sweden #sverige

♬ original sound – Liam Kalevi

But every culture has something funny about it, he says. He doesn’t think that Swedish culture is any funnier than others.

“Kenyan culture is funny in a completely different way. People are extroverted, pushy. They want their kids to be doctors. It’s the other extreme.”

@liamkalevi

Sorry for the horrible Danish accent 😭 #tiktokdenmark #comedy

♬ original sound – Liam Kalevi

He likes that Swedish people are not pretentious, but adds, controversially: “I think Swedish pizza is better than Italian pizza. It’s more down to Earth, more genuine.”

He stands by his love for Swedish pizza, even when it has banana and kebab and meatballs and fries on top.

“I’ll go on record to say that Swedish pizza is better than Italian pizza. Kebab pizza is top tier pizza in my opinion.”

He has not yet been to Italy.

Follow Liam on TikTok here and Instagram here


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