The novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri tells of a Bengali couple who move from Calcutta to the United States and struggle to raise a family while coping with the immense differences between their traditional and adopted cultures. In the course of the narrative, it juxtaposes numerous Bengali and American customs, traditions, and practices.
For instance, the practice of name giving is different. In Bengali culture, an elder should name the baby, and Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli want to wait until they hear from their newborn son's grandmother; but in the United States, the hospital insists that the parents name the baby right away on the birth certificate. Additionally, unlike Americans, Bengalis have pet names to be used at home and good names to use in public.
Another difference in tradition becomes evident when Nikhil, the son, goes to school. The parents want him to use his good name, and in India he would have obeyed without question, but the school authorities in America insist that the son's preference be respected, and so he is known as Gogol, his pet name, during his early years at school.
A further example of differences in culture involves the method of forming romantic relationships. Ashoke and Ashima, the parents, went through a marriage arranged by their parents, and they remain faithful to each other throughout their married life. Nikhil, on the other hand, follows the American custom of choosing his own romantic partners, and encounters confusion and difficulties as a result.
These are some of the main differences in culture and tradition presented in the novel, but there are many others integrated into the story having to do with cuisine, clothing, and the gathering and disposal of the ashes of a person after death.