My thoughts (as a European):
- Taxation. High taxes mean lower savings (bad!) but also that it is easier and normal to be frugal (good!) because nobody has much disposable income after the gov't takes its big cut.
- Role models. There are hardly any ER role models in the EU. In the US there are more because there are more people with a boatload of money, and that is because entrepreneurship is more popular and high incomes aren't excessively taxed. As a result, there are people can afford to make extravagant expenses such as private jets, huge ranches and also ER!
- Lots of people in Europe are semi-retired, i.e. they work less. It is true that people won't advertize that they're early retired, because having money is met with jealousy whereas in the US it's seen as a sign of success.
- Living off gov't subsidies when you're able to work is not done, and IMHO, of course it is not done!!
- There is this hypocrisy in the EU. Everyone in their late forties starts fantasizing about quitting their jobs, working less, winning the lottery, being the fuck retired already ...but for young people this is not done! We are "supposed to work". Probably because there are no role models of young people who could afford to retire early, like in the US.
- How to avoid social stigma as a young ER? Say you're a self-employed trader/investor. First off, it's correct as you may be spending a few hours a week following the markets. Second, this will bring about some understanding (people don't understand ER but they do understand self-employed) and respect for making it work for you ... or at least that's what I like to believe. Also, if you happen to be writing a book at that time or building a house, call that your other job. Being a stay-at-home mom is socially acceptable even after the kids have grown up. It's not usual, but it is "just" acceptable.
- EU taxes vary a lot! Some countries like Switzerland and the UK have taxes comparable to the US, while others like Belgium and probably Denmark put you in a 60% marginal tax bracket as soon as you earn $50k.