IAAL. More to the point, I am a litigation lawyer. We (Australia) also have the "loser pays" system (although the actual phrase is "costs follow the cause").
Costs orders are discretionary. If a big corporation sues some little guy and the little guy loses, there is a good chance that the judge will not order him to pay the corporation's costs if the little guy had a reasonable, if ultimately unsuccesful, defence.
Also, you will almost never get all your costs back (particularly if you've hired an expensive lawyer - like corporations do). Some things just aren't covered by the usual costs orders, and the costs have to be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case. If you spend big to win a small case, don't expect to get much of that back.
In my jurisdiction, if you really shouldn't have carried on the case, or if you got a settlement offer that would have left you better off than the final judgment and you turned it down then, even if you won the case, you will get an indemnity costs order against you for all the other party's costs from the date of the offer. An indemnity costs order covers more things than a regular costs order.
Costs orders are **fun**.