Nava makes an extremely good point: Europe was not homogenous in cultural customs or laws during the period in which serfdom was practiced (starting around 900 AD and ending around 1850 in Russia…however serf-like conditions date back to the end of the Roman Empire.)
Throughout this period you had genuine chattel slavery and then various different levels of serfdom, with differing treatment for serfs who broke the rules across Europe. In Russia the state of serfs there was essentially synonymous with everything you would think of when you think of the term “slavery”, even to the point that Russian boyars could buy and sell serfs just like true chattel slaves (and they were true chattel slaves.)
For various historical reasons England had serfdom in the least numbers and serfdom ended the earliest, and serfs had greater redress for grievances earlier than in other places. By the 1500s serfdom was virtually unknown in England, only being de jure banned in the late 16th century but it had been de facto extremely rare for the two hundred years following the Black Death. Of course the system that replaced it wasn’t great, it was a form of tenant farming in which you may not have been legally bound to the land but the bands of practicality are just as strong. When farming is your only skill and you live in a society that will let you starve if you don’t have some way to provide for yourself you can expect you’ll be doing a lot of farming, if you aren’t a big land owner you can expect to be a tenant farmer. If you’re a tenant farmer you can expect that the big land owner, even if he doesn’t have legal ownership of you or legal power to prohibit you from leaving, has a lot of control over your life and a lot of advantages in society in any disputes arising between you and him.
In England runaway serfs were rarely pursued or punished because it just wasn’t a big issue in England, England never practice serfdom as much as continental Europe for a variety of historical reasons. In the Eastern and Central parts of Europe things were different. In the Germanic states in the eastern half of the Holy Roman Empire and Austria proper manor courts remained the norm in many places until the 1700s (in Prussia it wasn’t until Frederick the Great that manor courts were substantially reduced in power.) The manor courts were administered by the local noble and thus meant there could be very real punishments for angering the local feudal lord, and little redress for any abuses. Serf catchers were also not uncommon, and men made a trade in that part of Europe hunting down runaways.
This was primarily because Eastern Europe had vast tracts of comparatively sparsely populated land. As serfdom died out in Western Europe, farming became more and more profitable for Eastern European rulers as Western Europe’s population growth started to demand larger grain imports. This increased chance for profit lead to many Eastern and Central European monarchs passing laws which essentially reversed the waning tide of serfdom in those countries and made serfdom more repressive and escaping serfdom more difficult. While not often mentioned, some of this didn’t end until Napoleon rolled through in the 19th century and put an end to it.